Invesco Funds is moving forward with a plan to boost sales through financial intermediaries such as banking companies.

The Denver-based unit of Amvescap PLC, which began offering a broker-sold option for 27 of its no-load funds this week, expects to more than double its wholesaling force by the end of the second quarter, said Richard W. Healey, senior vice president and head of marketing.

Invesco, which has 12 wholesalers in the field, could hire up to 18 more. The fund company has come a long way in the last two years, Mr. Healey said; it had only six field wholesalers at the end of 1998.

The "direct market has been challenged from the standpoint of growth," he said. "People want advice. They want a professional's input on how they plan their finances."

Invesco, which is on the short lists of only a couple of banks, will not automatically become the filet mignon of their mutual fund menus. In the bank channel, Invesco is up against fund giants such as Putnam Investments, Fidelity Investments, and Aim Management Group, Invesco's Houston-based sister company. These three are among the top sellers of funds through bank brokerages. Invesco also competes for shelf space with banks' proprietary funds.

However, offering level-load options and expanding its wholesaling efforts could spur the fund company's business through financial intermediaries.

Brokers are more likely to sell a company's funds if they are compensated for their efforts and if they get wholesaling support from the fund company, observers said.

"They can get on all the short lists in the world, but without in-the-field, constant wholesaling support, they'll go no place with it," said Joseph Cooney, chief executive of brokerage at First Security Corp. in Salt Lake City.

Unlike some fund companies, Invesco's sales force is divided by geography, not distribution channel. Wholesalers call on financial planners, wire houses, regional brokerages, and banks - but in a smaller territory. That lets them visit key accounts once a month, versus every three to four months, Mr. Healey said.

Invesco had $31.47 billion of assets in long-term and short-term portfolios at the end of last year, up nearly 50% from December 1998, according to Financial Research Corp. of Boston.

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