Pioneer Group, a leading mutual fund manager, is beefing up a unit that distributes funds through banks.

The company has hired a new head for the financial institutions division of its mutual fund-distribution subidiary.

Additionally, Pioneer plans to dedicate three more sales agents to the bank market, in addition the one sales agent dedicated in the spring.

Previously, Pioneer had 16 sales agents marketing funds to brokerages and investment advisors of all types, including those affiliated with banks.

Exec from Great Western

The new head of the financial institutions division is Barry G. Knight, who will hold the title of vice president. He comes to Pioneer form Great Western Financial Corp., in Beverly Hills, Calif., where he was a regional sales director for west Florida.

He has also worked for the brokerage unit of Barnett Banks, of Jacksonville, Fla.

In his new post, Mr. Knight will report to Stephen P. Long, Pioneer's marketing director, who has been overseeing the company's marketing of funds to banks since Thomas E. Ryan, 3rd, the former head of the financial division, left Pioneer in September.

Mr. Ryan is now business development manager for the bank services division at Keystone Group in Boston.

Commitment Questioned

People close to the situation, who asked not to be identified, said that the 11-month delay in hiring a replacement for Mr. Ryan signaled a waning committment from Pioneer to the bank market.

Indeed, even with the expanded sales force, Pioneer's dedicated bank marketing staff is relatively small for a firm of its size. According to the Investment Company Institute, Pioneer is the 40th-largest manager of mutual funds in the country.

The company says it has more than $7 billion of assets under management in funds owned by more than 750,000 investors.

But Anne Patenaude, a Pioneer vice president of marketing, said the company's committment to banks is sizable and has not waned.

She added that Pioneer's mutual fund sales through banks are up 20% so far this year compared to last year, although she declined to release total sales figures.

"Now we are going to step up to the plate and make that commitment [to banks] even stronger," Ms. Patenaude said.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.