OppenheimerFunds' acquisition in 1996 of the Rochester Family of Funds is proving to be a boon for bank sales.
Sales of the company's two New York State municipal bond funds through financial institutions totaled $237 million last year, nearly 10% of Oppenheimer's overall bank sales.
And they are on a pace to reach $451 million this year, or 12.5% of Oppenheimer's total fund sales through banks, said Maryann Bruce, head of bank distribution for the New York-based fund company.
The success of the bond funds is unusual-such funds have been eclipsed by equity funds for several years across all distribution channels as the stock market has surged.
"The current interest rate environment is such that munis are just not an appealing investment," said Geoffrey H. Bobroff, a consultant in East Greenwich, R.I.
But the strong performance and tax advantages of the two Rochester funds appeal to bank customers, Ms. Bruce said.
"That was one of the reasons why it was a great strategic acquisition," she said. "They had great products but virtually no distribution through banks. It's a great fit for the channel."
Mr. Bobroff agreed.
"With the Oppenheimer success in the bank marketplace, it just was a natural for them to step in and sell," he said. "It was a very good pickup."
The Rochester funds, which were sold through wire houses and other brokerages before the acquisition, have five-star ratings from Morningstar, are triple tax-free, and have above-average yields.
One fund, the Rochester Municipal, has a current yield of 5.5%. The return jumps to 7.4% for a shareholder in the 34% tax bracket when tax savings are considered, making the fund an attractive buy.
Ms. Bruce credits her firm's robust sales largely to its solid relationships with many big New York banks. Among those selling the Rochester muni funds are Chase Manhattan Corp., Citicorp, Dime Community Bancorp, Republic New York Corp., and Marine Midland Bank.
In other Oppenheimer news, the company is now predicting that its assets under management will hit $100 billion by the end of the summer. It had previously aimed for that figure by the end of 1999.
The company has $91.8 billion of assets under management, up from $71.8 billion at the end of June 1997.
At a press briefing this week, chief executive Bridget A. Macaskill credited Oppenheimer's branding ad campaign and the improving performance of its funds. Some of that success was highlighted in March, when Morningstar Investor, an industry publication, named the company the best at international investing.