Eaton Vance Corp. is offering training to help brokers use the Internet as a prospecting tool.
The Boston-based fund company has identified several Web sites that could help brokers find clients and has taught its 42 wholesalers to instruct brokers in how to use them, a spokeswoman said.
For example, one Web site helps brokers get the names and addresses of their clients' neighbors. Another identifies downsizing companies in the broker's area, which could lead to new clients interested in rolling money from a 401(k) into an individual retirement account, said William M. Gillen, senior vice president and national sales director of Eaton Vance Distributors Inc.
Mr. Gillen said the initiative, which is under way in all distribution channels, has been particularly effective in the bank channel. "It can help the newest bank rep right up to the top-producing rep develop their business to the next level," he said.
Indeed, two banks have asked Eaton Vance to train employees in departments where the fund company has not previously done business, such as commercial lending and mortgage origination, he said.
Fund companies that sell through brokers are constantly looking for ways to provide value-added services in their battle for shelf space, observers said, and this program is an example of that.
But some said they were skeptical that the program would increase brokers' business. Eaton Vance's program does not help brokers find the customers who are looking for them, said Louis Harvey, president of Dalbar Inc., a Boston-based consulting firm.
Nonetheless, Dawn Dupre, who manages the brokerage program at National Commerce Bancorp. of Memphis, said Eaton Vance's program sounded interesting. "We look for added value and any way they can provide it" is helpful, she said.
Separately, Mr. Gillen said Eaton Vance expects to exceed $2 billion of mutual fund sales through financial institutions this year, which would represent about 24% of its total fund sales. Last year the financial institutions division represented 18% of the firm's business and $1.3 billion of sales, compared with about 17% of business and roughly $600 million of mutual fund sales in 1997.
Last month it made the short list at Citigroup Inc., and since January it has been added to the preferred list at banking companies such as First Union Corp. of Charlotte, N.C., Mr. Gillen said.
The financial institutions division has hired four wholesalers this year, bringing its total to 23. And to provide increased service, it has also shrunk the territories wholesalers cover, Mr. Gillen said. The company may hire another wholesaler or two next year, he added.
The fund company had $31.6 billion of assets in long-term and short-term mutual funds on Oct. 31, according to Strategic Insight LLC. And it had $5 billion of inflows that month, which is strong for the industry, said Avi Nachmany, director of research at the New York-based consulting firm.