Franklin Templeton will be concentrating on its banking distribution channel in coming months as it tries to shake the perception that it is primarily a fixed-income fund firm.

Franklin completed a series of road shows this week along the Eastern Seaboard to expand awareness of its equity funds throughout its retail outlets. The firm will embark on similar road shows in the Midwest and on the West Coast in coming months, said Peter Jones, president of Franklin Templeton Distributors.

H.G. "Toby" Mumford Jr., senior vice president and director of sales at Franklin Templeton Distributors, said bank distribution of Franklin's equity funds has been slow, despite the portfolios' strong track record.

The firm's best performance statistics in recent years have come from its domestic growth funds, Mr. Jones said. The firm's Small Cap Growth I fund and its California Growth Fund have made net gains of 75.3% and 83.7%, respectively, for the past 12 months.

But the success of these funds is almost entirely due to nonbank channels, such as wire houses and financial planners, Mr. Jones said. "Banks have traditionally used us for our better-known asset classes," he said.

For this reason, bank channels offer a substantial opportunity for growth, Mr. Mumford said. Franklin's first task is "raising awareness" about the variety of funds that it offers, he said.

The firm plans to focus more on bank channels, Mr. Mumford said. Banks are generally more difficult as channels for selling a complete set of funds, partly because they usually reserve about 50% of their market for their proprietary funds.

Sales representatives at banks also tend to be spread out over a large region, making it difficult to gather them together and explain a fund to them, Mr. Mumford said. In contrast, brokers at wire houses are generally an easier audience to reach because they are often centrally located, he said.

The firm focused its efforts at the road shows on two new funds - the Franklin Technology Fund and Small Cap Growth II. The firm's first Small Cap Growth Fund was closed to new investors recently because the stocks were approaching the mid-cap level, said Ed Jamieson, portfolio manager, at a recent presentation of the funds to brokers at CIBC Oppenheimer in New York.

The new Small Cap Growth fund will follow the same investment strategy as the first, he said.

Franklin will continue its emphasis on banks until bank sales forces recognize the firm's wide array of portfolios, Mr. Jones said. "If we keep that up, we'll gradually make inroads."

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