Consolidation in the banking and brokerage industries has complicated many fund companies' efforts to build their bank channel business, and OppenheimerFunds Inc. is no exception.
For one thing, the constant change has made it harder for the New York company to set long-term sales goals for its bank channel.
Moreover, crucial relationships built between fund representatives and a bank often vanish when the bank consolidates its brokers outside of the office, said Elaine Puleo Carter, bank channel head for the New York company.
Mergers, buyouts, and partnerships between banks and brokerage houses often lure the best brokers away and require the fund company to familiarize newer brokers with its products, she said.
OppenheimerFunds was one of the first firms to have a significant presence in banks, Ms. Carter said, and for years it has been selling 10% to 15% of its funds through banks. At first its only major competitors were Putnam and Franklin, but it is now getting more competition from other fund companies and banks' proprietary funds, she said.
Until recently the company's primary strategy was to become a household name, Ms. Carter said. The strategy worked. Proprietary research from two years ago showed it to be the second-most-recognized mutual fund family - behind only Fidelity Investments, said Greg Stit, a spokesman for OppenheimerFunds.
Despite the name recognition, many investors got the impression that the firm's funds were somewhat low performers. To combat that impression, OppenheimerFunds is expanding its marketing efforts to trumpet its funds' performance histories, Ms. Carter said.
Many of Oppenheimer's funds have done well. In a year of mixed results in equity markets, its Capital Appreciation Fund - launched in 1981 - is up 11%, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Oppenheimer is asking its representatives to emphasize fund performance during meetings with clients, Ms. Carter said. Mr. Stit said it is also adding performance statistics to its print and television advertisements.
Part of the company's effort to differentiate itself and to improve its relationship with brokers and advisers is to offer more advice-based products, Ms. Carter said. Earlier in the year, OppenheimerFunds launched a program to educate brokers and advisers about stock options - an area that may not be familiar even to some investment professionals, Ms. Carter said.