Invest Financial Corp., a third-party provider of investment products through community banks, has developed software to give its sales staff easier access to research, product information, and sales materials.
The software, to go into use next month, will link bank sales representatives directly to specific sections of a product vendors Web site.
From the sales rep section of Invests Web site, a rep will be able to select a list of vendors with mutual funds, for example, that Invest makes available.
Clicking on a vendors name will call up a template divided into research, marketing tools, and fulfillment. Within those categories are links to sections in the vendors site. For instance, clicking on the fulfillment sections literature center will take reps to the section where they can order prospectuses. Another click might take them to a section where they can look up the performance of the funds they are researching.
The idea is to increase investment product sales by cutting the amount of time that sales reps spend on each customer transaction, said Sandra K. Tuell, Invests Web content manager.
Currently a contact page on Invests site gives sales representatives a list of telephone numbers and Internet addresses and, in some cases, links to product providers. Reps then have to poke around on the providers Web site to find the information they need, Ms. Tuell said.
With the new software, Invests product portal will take the sales rep directly to the relevant section of the providers site. In most cases, the software will automatically plug in the password necessary to access the reps-only portion of the site, Ms. Tuell said.
The next step, planned for the third quarter of 2001, will be to tweak the software so that it can help reps make recommendations to clients, Ms. Tuell said. For example, a rep could search for funds suited to a particular investment strategy.
The portal will have links to all of Invests approved product vendors, Ms. Tuell said. Links cannot now be made to the interior regions of some vendors sites, but Invest is working with those to allow such links, she said.
Kenneth Kehrer, president of the consulting firm Kenneth Kehrer Associates in Princeton, N.J., said the actual information available will differ from vendor to vendor, because every Web site is different. Invests software is clearly a step in the right direction, he said, but it will still give representatives information in disparate ways.
Kathi Douglas, a senior account manager at AIM Funds, said broker-dealers are increasingly demanding access to customized information for their representatives. AIMs electronic commerce division has designed areas in its Web site that are customized for and accessible to only about 30 broker-dealers, among them about five bank broker-dealers.
Ms. Douglas said that Invests approach, which will hyperlink into AIM Web pages, is unique in her experience. The advantage of either approach, she said, is that it makes it easier for sales reps to sell their funds.
Invest, based in Tampa, is a subsidiary of Jackson National Life of Lansing, Mich. It provides brokerage services to more than 300 individual community banks.
Three sister companies, all brokerages owned by Jacksons National Planning Holdings of Santa Monica, Calif., will also use the software. The three are Investment Centers of America, which provides brokerage services to about 150 community banks; National Planning Corp.; and SII Investments.