Already one of the top five mutual fund distributors through banks in the United States, Amvescap's AIM Management Group unit is counting on an array of new funds to build on its success.

At Houston-based AIM, which also sells retail funds through insurance companies, financial planners, and nonbank brokerages, bank sales rose to $3 billion last year, from $2.5 billion in 1997.

That represents almost 20% of AIM's overall sales and means banks accounted for a slightly larger share of those sales compared with the previous year.

The key to AIM's success has been its focus on the biggest banks, said Michael Vessels, AIM's bank sales chief. Fifty banks account for 80% of the fund sales through that channel, and AIM is on the preferred provider list of all but a half-dozen of them, he said.

Its challenge now is to sell more products through each of those banks, he said.

That will happen, AIM executives hope, in part because of a fund lineup that has been broadened to include funds from Invescap and from the former GT Global.

Whereas AIM had five global and international funds two years ago, it now has 22. It has also moved to balance its lopsided equity sales by adding fixed-income funds: a high-yield municipal bond fund, a strategic income fund, and a floating rate fund.

AIM, historically known as a domestic growth fund manager, is also starting to get recognition as a value-style manager.

Its AIM Value Fund, which shoots for growth at a reasonable price, has grown to $20 billion of assets under management, from $50 million in 1992, when AIM bought it as part of CIGNA's fund family.

"We've achieved our goal of becoming a broader mutual fund family than we were five years ago," said Michael J. Cemo, president of AIM's distribution company.

Having a wide range of products is a competitive advantage for fund companies as banks increasingly look to ally themselves with fewer fund companies.

In recent months AIM has made it onto the preferred provider list at the merged NationsBank Corp. and BankAmerica Corp., as well as the combined and shortened A-list shared by Citigroup Investment Services and Primerica Financial Services.

The company continues to expand its corps of dedicated bank wholesalers, which has grown to 17 from seven in six years. It plans to add another wholesaler within 30 days, to work out of the Denver area, Mr. Vessels said.

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