First Investors Corp. plans to file a registration statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission to launch its first intermediate-maturity, insured municipal bond fund, a company official said Friday.
"It will fill a need in our family of funds," said Clark D. Wagner, chief investment officer at First Investors.
According to Lipper Analytical Services Inc., there is only one other insured intermediate-maturity municipal fund. That fund was launched by T. Rowe Price last November and had assets of about $45 million as of March 31.
Currently, First Investors offers 20 long-term, insured municipal funds, with total assets of approximately $1.89 billion. Eighteen of the funds are single-state funds, and two are national mutual funds.
The mutual fund company also offers an uninsured tax-exempt money market fund with assets of about $21 million.
"If you look at the normal transition, [an insured intermediate fund] is a logical step," said Geoff Bobbroff, a senior vice president at Lipper.
Describing the evolution of municipal bond funds, Bobroff said the first tax-exempt funds, launched in 1976, were uninsured long-term funds. Then there were long-term insured funds, followed by intermediate uninsured funds, he said.
"So it's logical to follow suit with an intermediate insured fund. I think we're finding a lot of people looking at them," the Lipper executive said.
Strong demand from investors played a key role in First Investors' decision to add an intermediate tax-exempt fund to its offerings, Wagner said.
"We were seeing that we were losing sales to other fund companies" that offer intermediate funds, Wagner said.
In the present yield environment, investment advisers have promoted intermediate bonds and mutual funds as offering most of the yield available on longer-term securities with substantially less price volatility and interest rate risk.
As of March 31, about 49 intermediate municipal bond funds had assets of approximately $12.2 billion, according to Lipper. The analytical services company classifies intermediate funds as those with average maturities ranging from five to 10 years.
The fund, expected to be called the First Investors Insured Intermediate Tax-Exempt Fund, will have an average maturity of about 10 years, Wagner said. Shares are expected to be offered to investors sometime in September.
Similar to other First Investor products, the fund will charge a fee to those making investments. However, the fee, or load, will be smaller than those assessed for the firm's long-term funds, which have a maximum of 6.4% declining to zero, depending on the size of the investment. The minimum investment in the fund is expected to be about $1,000.
Currently, there are no plans to offer additional intermediate funds, such as single-state funds. But the company may consider it, depending on how the new national fund fares, Wagner said.
"Our long-term national fund has assets of $1.4 billion. So we have a large base of investors" for the new national fund, the mutual fund executive said.