In a further sign of tough times at investment product marketing firms, one company is throwing in the towel.

Financial Horizons, a Columbus, Ohio-based subsidiary of Nationwide Insurance Group, will no longer help banks set up and run mutual fund and annuity sales programs, said president Duane C. Meek.

The eight-year-old firm - which sold $582 million of mutual funds and annuities in 1994 - has consistently ranked among the largest investment product marketers.

But during the past couple of years, the field has become saturated with marketers chasing fewer banks, Mr. Meek said.

The development prompted Financial Horizons to restructure and focus on distributing products - the Best of America annuities of its parent, Nationwide.

Financial Horizons will officially unveil its new identity on Tuesday, when the company's name will change to National Financial Institutions Distributors Agency.

"We saw opportunity to grow that side of the business as opposed to continuing as a third-party marketer," Mr. Meek said.

Financial Horizons' switch is indicative of the change in the investment product marketing industry. Three years of heady growth have given way to waning operations, analysts say.

"We wouldn't be surprised if others got out of the business," said Lynne Goldman, a consultant with Cerulli Associates, Boston. "Their margins are squeezed by pressures to provide maximum payouts."

Banks are indeed demanding more from their marketing partners, but these companies have not risen to the challenge, Ms. Goldman said. "And now they're under a lot of pressure."

The notion of wholesaling products is not exactly new to Financial Horizons. The company has for years distributed Nationwide annuities to certain banks without running their sales programs.

In April, executives at Financial Horizons and Nationwide decided it would make product distribution the unit's sole activity.

Soon after, Financial Horizons notified the nine bank clients whose sales programs it ran. The institutions are now either in the process of signing or have already signed with new investment marketing companies, Mr. Meek said.

For instance, Star Bank, Financial Horizon's biggest client, chose Bankmark, Morris Plains, N.J.

Mr. Meek emphasized that the latest incarnation of Financial Horizons may not be its last.

"This is the one for the market today," he said.

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