Putnam Investments, Boston, said Thursday it has promoted Vincent Esposito to national sales director for its $176 billion-asset retail mutual funds business.

Mr. Esposito, 41, has overseen sales through financial institutions and financial advisers since January. With the promotion, he adds the broker- dealer channelto his portfolio. The three retail channels combined serve 8.5 million individual investors.

"It's probably one of the most enviable jobs in the mutual fund community," said Louis Harvey, president of Dalbar, a mutual fund research firm in Boston. "Putnam has an extremely strong reputation in all the retail channels they serve. The challenge for Vinny is to find a way to make it better-which I think is going to be a tough job."

Mr. Esposito will report to William N. Shiebler, president of the retail unit, Putnam Mutual Funds. He will also join Putnam's 35-person management committee.

But a company spokesman said that Mr. Esposito has not been designated to succeed Mr. Shiebler, who recently announced his intention to train a successor and retire in two to five years.

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