Bank retail brokerages are finding themselves selling more bond mutual funds and fielding less demand for equity funds as investors seek shelter from stock market turbulence.
"We're definitely seeing more interest in bond fund investing," said Peter Wall, vice president for product research and development at Chase Investment Services Group.
Whereas Chase over the last three years has sold 65% equity funds and 35% bond funds, the ratio in May and June shifted to 55% equity funds, 45% bond funds, Mr. Wall said.
That reflects trends in the $5 trillion fund industry as a whole. Net new cash flow into stock funds fell in May to $18.7 billion, from $26.5 billion in April, according to the latest number from the Investment Company Institute.
Partly as a result, the combined assets of the nation's 7,000 mutual funds decreased by $2.85 billion in May, the trade group said. said.
Taxable bond fund sales, meanwhile, rose to $6.2 billion, from $3.7 billion, and municipal bond fund sales shot up to $2.5 billion, from $545 million the previous month.
Investors also flocked to money market funds, pumping in a net $26.2 billion in May after having pulled a net $12.7 billion out of the funds in April.
"I definitely think there is at least a short-term change in sentiment," said Maryann Bruce, director of sales through banks for OppenheimerFunds. "The volatility of the market has started to make investors a little antsy."
Oppenheimer's bank sales, normally 55% bond funds, shifted in May and June as bond funds accounted for 65% of sales.
Oppenheimer started advising banks that their clients should look at reallocation starting in the fourth quarter of last year, and that they could use Oppenheimer's wide array of bond funds to do so, Ms. Bruce said.
"So now we're top of mind," she said.
Rather than rushing into bond funds out of panic, many investors are simply reallocating portfolios that have grown stock-heavy simply because the market has performed so well over the past three years, said Michael Forstl, manager of John Nuveen & Co.'s bank sales unit.
Nuveen, which specializes in municipal bond funds, saw sales of its state-specific muni bond funds through banks increase by 15%, to $75 million, in the second quarter compared with the first quarter, Mr. Forstl said.
Mike Mortensen, president of PNC Bank Corp.'s retail brokerage, said the bank has seen a marked shift toward bond funds: They accounted for 34% of fund sales in the first quarter, up from 28% in the same quarter a year ago.
"My best guess is that will continue in the second quarter," he said.
But Jim Badge, director of the retail brokerage at Michigan National Corp., in Farmington Hills, Mich., said investors are more aggressive than in years past.
"So much more now, the customer is more savvy," said Mr. Badge, whose brokerage counts more than two-thirds of its sales from equity funds. "They're buying on pullbacks, and the brokers are now presenting that as an option."
The change in investor sentiment is being well received at Oppenheimer, which has built a strategy around bond fund sales.
Most of the biggest outside fund sellers through banks, like Putnam Investments, Franklin Templeton Distributors, and AIM Management Group, are wrestling for market share in the equity arena, Ms. Bruce said.
"We made a strategic decision to let them fight it out over the equities, and we'll promote the fixed income," she said.