How many supermarkets can one town support?
When it comes to mutual fund "supermarket" services that sell hundreds of funds to investors, NationsBank Corp. hopes there's room for at least one more.
The Charlotte, N.C., bank plans to launch in late September a service selling about 300 funds from 20 to 30 fund groups, including its own funds. With the new program, called Fund Solutions, NationsBank will join a growing list of brokerage firms and fund groups fighting to attract investors with one-stop shopping.
"We're at the front of the trend in the industry toward no-load products," said Robert Gordon, senior vice president of marketing at NationsBanc Advisors, a NationsBank unit.
Mr. Gordon would not reveal which fund groups NationsBank is hoping to sign on, but industry experts say the list includes such top-performing no- load fund companies as Strong Funds, Crabbe Huson Group, and Invesco Funds. The bank recently removed the sales commission from its own funds, effectively making them no-load.
Michael Czajka, director of institutional marketing at Crabbe Huson, confirmed that his firm is negotiating with NationsBank. "This kind of distribution system is a good opportunity for us," he said.
Strong confirmed that it's talking, too. Rochelle Lamm Wallach, president of Strong Advisory Services, said her firm has a "long-standing relationship" with NationsBank and "is in the contract exchanging stage."
Although banks have hardly been an overwhelming success in the fund business, NationsBank is hoping this new strategy will help it gain ground on competitors. Its Fund Solutions will be going up against supermarket programs offered by Charles Schwab & Co., Fidelity Investments, and Smith Barney Inc. - and eventually against upcoming programs from Prudential and Merrill Lynch & Co.
Mr. Gordon calls the launch "a significant push for us." In late September, the bank will target current customers and new prospects with direct mail and a full-fledged advertising campaign.