For the second time in less than a year, Fidelity Investments is shuffling the management of its bank sales group.
Last week, the Boston-based mutual fund company recruited a top executive from a rival fund company to oversee sales through intermediaries such as banks, brokerage firms, and insurance companies.
William O'Grady, a former banker who headed Alliance Capital Management's bank sales effort, joined Fidelity as wholesale distribution chief, a new post. He reports to Paul Hondros, president of Fidelity's institutional services unit.
"It's an area where we've seen a pretty dramatic rise in sales," Mr. Hondros said, "and we want to maintain that momentum."
In another key change, David Liebrock, who had headed Fidelity's sales through bank broker-dealers since May, has taken a different post, according to Mr. Hondros, who declined to elaborate.
Industry sources said Andrew Olear 2d, who has headed Fidelity's bank sales efforts in the eastern United States, would replace Mr. Liebrock. But a Fidelity spokeswoman said Mr. Olear is not in contention for the job.
Fidelity watchers took the changes as evidence that the giant fund company - the nation's largest, with more than $200 billion of assets under management - is unhappy with its progress in selling funds through banks. Last May, the company split its bank sales division into three parts in a bid to boost sales by targeting markets more carefully.
Sales through banks have been a "less than glorious" part of Fidelity's business, said Geoff Bobroff, president of Bobroff Consulting Inc., East Greenwich, R.I.
"Banks have a limited shelf space, and Fidelity is probably hoping to leverage (Mr. O'Grady's) existing client relationships to get on those shelves," said Mr. Bobroff.
In absolute terms, Fidelity is no slouch when it comes to selling funds through banks. Last year, its net sales through this channel topped $1 billion.
Nevertheless, Fidelity ranked behind two smaller rivals - Putnam Mutual Funds and Franklin Resources Inc. - in bank sales, according to Cerulli Associates, a Boston-based consulting firm.
In a telephone interview, Mr. O'Grady said he hopes to boost Fidelity's sales through bank brokerages by 50% this year.
"There's always room for improvement," Mr. O'Grady said. "We still see a tremendous opportunity to expand" the bank channel.
Bankers who sell Fidelity funds said they're not sure how the changes would affect their relationships with the company.
"Your impression of a large company like Fidelity is going to depend largely on the person closest to you," said Gregory J. Miles, chief financial officer of Amsouth Bancorp.'s brokerage arm. "A change relatively high up may or may not affect us."
Mr. O'Grady's departure from Alliance leaves a gap in that fund company's efforts to grab more of the bank market.
A spokeswoman said Alliance is interviewing both internal and external candidates to replace Mr. O'Grady. Meanwhile, executive vice president Michael J. Laughlin will directly oversee the bank sales business.
Cristina Merrill contributed to this report.