A lean, mean, marketing machine.

That's how Invest Financial Corp., a leading investment marketer for banks, is portraying itself after a high-level staff shakeup late last month.

In the major housecleaning, Invest shed its national sales manager and five regional managers and promoted eight subordinates to take their places.

The company also streamlined the way it serves branch-based brokers, giving them a single boss instead of the separate bosses they dealt with before.

Now brokers will only have to contact a single person for help with annuities, education, and sales productivity, rather than the three separate units they dealt with previously.

"I've always advocated the theory of attack and adjust," said Merlin Gackle, Invest's president and chief operating officer.

And that is just what the Tampa, Fla., company, a unit of Kemper Corp, did.

Mr. Gackle said the staff cuts were necessary to make Invest more responsive. He added that the change will buoy branch-based brokers who have suffered from a market slow-down this year.

"Not one rep will be out of contact with our people for more than a week," he said, citing this as an improvement over previous practices.

"Banks have liked it because there's more focus on the productivity of the reps," he claimed.

The management changes put supervision of bank brokers in the hands of eight regional managers. Two of the regional managers, Tracy Manier and Douglas Dorn, are also divisional managers who supervise the other six.

Mr. Gackle would not comment on how much additional business the new changes are expected to produce.

But he did clarify another issue, by saying that Invest "will not make any more management changes between now and the next year" when the planned merger between Invest parent Kemper, of Long Grove, Ill., and Conseco Inc., Carmel, Ind., is scheduled.

Though industry observers have speculated that the firings were made in anticipation of the merger, Mr. Gackle said the two events were unrelated.

The reshuffling had been on the table weeks before the merger announcement, he said.

Conseco's investment products marketing unit, Bankmark, of Morris Plains, N.J., is a fierce competitor of Invest's.

Mr. Gackle declined to comment on how Bankmark and Invest would be managed after the merger.

All he would say is that Invest is "looking at the synergies of both companies."

"We will find out what we do best and outsource the rest," he explained.

One way Invest is looking to stay ahead of the competition is by forging partnerships with banks that already have large brokerage networks.

This is in contrast to Invest's bread and butter business of serving banks with limited brokerage operations, or none at all.

For the larger banks, Invest would act as an adviser and consultant to help streamline their business. Invest believes it has ample experience and technological resources to succeed at this.

Especially with regard to management and technology services, Invest can operate. "at peanuts on the dollar compared to years of costly development" banks would have on their own, Mr. Gackle said.

Eli Neusner, a consultant with Cerulli Associates of Boston, said that exporting its expertise is a natural outgrowth for Invest.

"Invest is considered one of the top outfits in this business, and technology is known to be one of their strengths," he said.

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