agreements with leading banks in the Netherlands and Singapore, a senior executive told an industry conference here.
The deals -- with ING Group of Amsterdam and United Overseas Bank Group of Singapore -- are part of the banking company's strategy to expand national and global sales of its mutual funds through strategic alliances, said Robert L. Ash, managing director and chief executive officer of retail investments.
Mr. Ash, who oversees the $20 billion-asset Galaxy Mutual Funds Group, said the company is looking for growth abroad because "the industry is glutted in the United States." He spoke at a sales conference sponsored by American Banker and a sister publication, Bank Investment Marketing magazine.
The deal with ING has both a domestic and an international component, said Richard Joseph, director of business development for the Galaxy Funds. The Dutch bank's U.S. sales force, totaling 6,000 people, has begun selling the Galaxy Funds, and Fleet's 1,160 full-service and platform brokers are selling ING's fledgling $800 million-asset U.S. fund family and its annuities.
Next year ING, which manages $310 billion around the world, plans to distribute the Galaxy Funds in Europe, a new market for the funds, Mr. Joseph said. He did not specify when next year the sales effort would begin.
Fleet's agreement with United Overseas Bank involves fund management as well as sales.
Fleet and United plan to launch an equity fund tracking stocks in Latin America, Mexico, and North America early next year, Mr. Ash said in an interview before his presentation. The fund would be managed and sold by United in Asia, where it has 1,300 branches. Fleet would act as a subadviser, leveraging both the Latin American expertise acquired through its recent merger with BankBoston and its relationship with the British firm Oechsle International Advisors, which it partly owns.
In the United States, meanwhile, Fleet and United plan to launch a pan-Asian fund managed by Fleet and subadvised by United, which manages and advises $5 billion of U.S. fund assets. This portfolio is scheduled for a launching early next year.
For the most part, analysts said, Fleet's strategy makes sense.
"The mutual fund industry here is reaching a maturation stage," said James E. Folwell, a consultant at Cerulli Associates of Boston. And Fleet's bid to team up with banks should let it leverage the historical role foreign banks play in the investment market, he added.
But an alliance of this nature needs commitment from both sides, said Burton J. Greenwald, a Philadelphia-based mutual fund analyst.
"Inevitably in these alliances it's very difficult to get the salespeople on both sides fired up," Mr. Greenwald said. Still, if Fleet does a good job for ING here, they're likely to get good support from the bank in Europe, he said.
Even as it teams up with foreign banks, Fleet is said to be eyeing an expansion of a sales agreement with Mellon Bank Corp.'s Dreyfus subsidiary.
According to James A. Neiland, senior vice president and national sales manager at Dreyfus' financial institutions group, the two banking companies are in discussions that could eventually result in Mellon's selling the Galaxy Funds. Fleet already sells the Dreyfus Funds, Mr. Neiland said.
As it happens, Dreyfus already has an alliance with United Overseas Bank. But the Singapore bank, which entered the relationship a year ago, has yet to jointly develop any investment product with Dreyfus, said David T. Goss, a managing director at United.