The managing director of Putnam Investments' much admired financial institutions division has taken a job at hometown rival Liberty Financial Cos.
Louis Tasiopoulos is the second executive to leave Boston-based Putnam this week for smaller Liberty. The first was Jim Tambone, the director of Putnam's financial adviser division.
The two executives will oversee the sale of Liberty's mutual fund portfolios to banks, brokers, and financial planners.
"This is a major blow to Putnam that is not easily fixed," said mutual fund consultant Geoffrey Bobroff of East Greenwich, R.I.
Putnam, a mutual fund giant that manages $128 billion of assets, derives a healthy portion of sales from the markets that Mr. Tasiopoulos and Mr. Tambone were in charge of mining. Indeed, banks contribute about 25% of Putnam's sales, and the company has dominated the sector for four years.
Putnam expects to name successors shortly, a spokeswoman said. Neither Mr. Tasiopoulos nor Mr. Tambone could be reached for comment.
The departures took the fund industry - and Putnam - by surprise. Putnam has been the fastest growing company in the industry and has carved out shelf space at 96% of the banks that sell mutual funds.
"We don't know why they left," said a spokeswoman for William N. Shiebler, president of Putnam's distribution arm. "We know they were offered attractive compensation packages," she added.
She said that Putnam has a deep well of talent and that services should not be disrupted.
In interviews, executives at client banks said they don't think their relationships with Putnam will suffer unless the representatives who regularly handle their accounts also quit.
"I'd have to see the fallout," said John S. McCune, president of the brokerage at Norwest Financial Corp., Minneapolis. "There's turnover all the time in the mutual fund industry. Fidelity has it too."
Mr. Tasiopoulos and Mr. Tambone expressed interest in joining Liberty several months ago, said Liberty's senior vice president for marketing, Porter Pierpont Morgan. "They're relatively young men, and there's something about the challenge of taking an up-and-comer like Liberty Financial to the next level."
Liberty, which owns three mutual fund subsidiaries and an annuity underwriter, is trying to consolidate the marketing approach of a variety of recent acquisitions.
Mr. Tasiopoulos and Mr. Tambone, named senior managing directors of distribution, will market the portfolios of Colonial Group Inc. and Newport Pacific Management Inc., and some of the no-load company Stein Roe & Farnham Inc.
They will report to Harold W. Cogger, executive vice president of Liberty Financial Cos., and will no doubt work with Stephen Gibson, a Putnam executive who left last summer to become Colonial's chief executive officer.
Mr. Tasiopoulos, who came to Putnam in 1993, oversaw the accounts of such behemoth banking clients as BankAmerica Corp., Chase Manhattan Bank Corp., and Citicorp. An ardent cheerleader of bank investment programs, he was one of the first fund sales executives to take a consultative approach to the market instead of merely hawking products.
"He's a visionary," said Michael Vessels, senior vice president in charge of sales through banks at Aim Management Group Inc. "He's got good experience and understands the inner workings of financial institutions."