Crystal balls are hazy when it comes to predicting which mutual fund distribution channels will be the most effective over the next few years, according to Charles W. Brady, executive chairman of Amvescap.

That's part of the reason that the mutual fund holding company is keeping its AIM Management Group and Invesco Inc. separate, said Mr. Brady, who made the point last week after addressing a conference in New York.

"We're all wrestling with the question of which distribution channels will be important in the future," he said. "It's up to your imagination."

Further confusing matters is the fact that load and no-load delivery systems are becoming blurred, said Mr. Brady, who spoke Friday at Putnam Lovell & Thornton's annual symposium on U.S. money management companies.

AIM funds are load funds sold through intermediaries including banks, while Invesco sells no-load funds directly to investors. The companies merged last year under the Amvescap banner.

Amvescap, based in London, is buying LGT Asset Management, the parent of San Francisco-based GT Global. GT is distributed through intermediaries and will become part of AIM.

It is not clear whether GT will keep a separate brand identity, an AIM spokesman said.

Some industry watchers predict that the smallest distribution channel, financial planners, may grow the fastest over the next few years.

They also say that the lines that separate different distribution channels are blurring.

For instance, banks and broker-dealers are acting more like registered investment advisers and financial planners in that they are moving from a purely transactional approach toward a fee-based approach with products like wrap accounts and fund supermarkets with a wrap feature.

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