William Kearns' attempt to market Eaton Vance Corp.'s mutual funds through a "hub and spoke" structure flopped. But the marketing veteran is trying again at a different company.
Mr. Kearns has signed on with Boston-based Standish, Ayer & Wood Inc., a less-known institutional money manager. At Standish, he said he wants to use the hub and spoke structure to sell mutual funds through banks, insurance companies, and financial planners.
Under that structure, fund companies manage a central pool of assets, a hub, and generate fees from fund families of financial intermediaries, the spokes, which market the central pool under their own names.
Mr. Kearns tried the structure during his tenure at Eaton Vance, which was among the first fund companies to market it to banks. But the effort didn't pay off, largely because of the specialized nature of Eaton's portfolios. Most of its funds invest in municipal bonds, and banks already manage plenty of those.
But Mr. Kearns is confident that his new employer will fare better.
"We're offering products that were not available at Eaton Vance," the marketing and sales vice president said. "Banks without exception are looking for equity funds. We can supply them with those."
Standish, which manages $27 billion of corporate pension plans, is trying to expand its distribution to retail investors. It currently manages $4 billion of assets in 17 mutual funds.
As part of the hub and spoke program, the company, which is best known for fixed-income funds, is offering a Standish Global Fixed Income Fund and Standish Fixed Income Fund. It is also offering an equity fund and a small- capitalization equity fund.
Mr. Kearns is targeting bank mutual fund families with about $1 billion of assets and seven or more portfolios, the middle tier of bank-managed funds, he said.
One member of its target market said banks are increasingly looking for outside managers to help them add aggressive and international portfolios to their offerings.
Bank-managed funds "may not have a sufficient customer base to justify hiring internally, but they do need to round out their product menu for those customers," said Sterling Jenson, president of the investment management unit at First Security Corp., Salt Lake City.
His bank's international funds are managed by SEI Corp., a Wayne, Pa.- based mutual fund company.
Hub and spoke portfolios have captured $59.4 billion of assets nationwide, about 2% of the more than $3 trillion of U.S. mutual fund assets.
About one-third of hub portfolios are managed by bank fund programs, according to Signature Financial Group, a firm that helps fund companies, including Standish, structure these portfolios.
Standish is seeking to expand its distribution because the pension business has been stagnant, observed Stewart Rose, principal at Alexander S. Rose Co., Boston.
"Standish is one of hundreds of money managers trying to find new outlets to capture assets," he said.