KemperFunds has decided not to replace its bank sales chief, who resigned in October, an executive said.
Instead, the Chicago-based mutual fund company has named three executives to handle sales through banks, said Jim Greenawalt, the president of Kemper's distribution arm.
Because the bank sales business is functioning smoothly, Mr. Greenawalt said, the company decided not to "look outside the organization and bring another person into the mix."
One industry observer said the move could signal that Kemper is pulling back from its bank sales effort.
"It sounds like a de-emphasis of the bank channel," said Kenneth Kehrer, a consultant in Princeton, N.J.
But Mr. Greenawalt insisted the company remains strongly committed to banks. He pointed out that two dedicated wholesalers were added late last year, for a total of 12. And he ticked off several recent deals that he said would bolster sales.
Henry Schulthesz, a 15-year company veteran and head of bank distribution for the last three, resigned for reasons that were not made public.
Despite the shake-up, Kemper's fund sales through banks rose to $1.2 billion in 1998, up from $825 million a year earlier, Mr. Greenawalt said. It also sold $400 million of variable annuities.
The bank channel is being run by Pam Buchanan, who handles account management; Jeff McGee, national sales manager; and Gary Kocher, head of new business development.
Mr. Greenawalt, who oversees sales through banks as well as brokerages and independent financial planners, credited what he calls a "strategic partner" approach for recent successes in the bank channel.
The idea is to query a bank thoroughly about its strategic goals and then propose how Kemper's products and services can help it succeed.
Late last year Cleveland's KeyCorp added a Kemper small-cap value fund to its preferred-provider list. Old Kent Financial Corp., Grand Rapids, Mich., added Kemper's products to its A-list in late January.
The company's funds have also landed in the wrap program at Wells Fargo & Co. of San Francisco.
And Kemper is looking to make inroads into the trust business. Last year it signed deals with two mutual fund supermarkets that target bank trust departments - one run by Federated Investors of Pittsburgh and the other by FundGard Data Systems of Wayne, Pa., Mr. Greenawalt said.
Despite those successes, Kemper had at least one recent disappointment. It failed to make the new A-list at BankAmerica Corp., the biggest bank distributor.
Kemper is on BankAmerica's B-list, meaning its products will not be sold as aggressively as those on the A-list.