Two weeks after announcing an adviser-sold 529 college savings partnership with the state of Nevada, Putnam Investments said it would expand sales of the Putnam 529 for America program nationally.
Robert Reynolds, the Boston company's chief executive, said in an interview that Putnam has offered 529 plans for 10 years, but this plan will take a broader approach.
Putnam officially became a program manager in Nevada on Oct. 1 and then wasted no time in looking beyond the state for sales.
For the past 10 years, Putnam had managed Ohio's adviser-sold 529 plan, but when Ohio decided to only have one adviser-sold plan, to be managed by BlackRock, Putnam was approached by "several" states that wanted to work with the company, Reynolds said.
Ohio had a charter that enabled Putnam to sell 529 plans in other states, but the state wanted to focus on selling plans within its borders, Reynolds said in an interview Oct. 1.
"What really attracted us to Nevada was their flexibility plus their willingness to grow on a national basis," he said.
Putnam will join USAA, Columbia Management, Vanguard and Upromise in running 529 plans through Nevada. Columbia also manages an adviser-sold plan.
Putnam, which managed $3 billion of 529 assets for Ohio, will start at "ground zero" in Nevada, Reynolds said.
"I am confident we will exceed the assets we accumulated in Ohio," he said.
"We are targeting advisers at every state in the union."
Putnam's 529 plan will be the first to feature absolute-return funds as an investment option. The funds are designed to target positive three-year returns above inflation, as measured by T-bills and with lower relative volatility.
Most 529 plans have leaned heavily toward target-date funds, but Reynolds said absolute-return funds are better suited for investors saving for college.
"A lot of investors don't really understand risk," he said.
"Over a 10-year period, an investor can generate the same amount of return, but if they hit a difficult market closer to retirement, they might have a lower balance. These products are designed to protect principal throughout."
Putnam's absolute-return funds, launched 18 months ago, have accumulated $2.5 billion.
"It's still a new concept," Reynolds said. "But already 9,000 individual advisers have started selling these products nationally."
The funds are designed to target positive three-year returns above inflation, as measured by T-bills and with lower relative volatility.
To encourage participation in the Nevada plan, Putnam will waive sales charges for participants who transfer funds over from existing 529 plans, It will also waive the annual maintenance fees until 2012.