In recent years Americans have become more comfortable buying mutual funds that invest in foreign stocks and bonds, but such funds are still among the toughest sells for brokers.

That has been particularly true since mid-1998. In the nine months through March 31, U.S. investors pulled out almost $21 billion more than they put into such funds, according to Financial Research Corp. of Boston.

Clearly, successful sellers of international and global funds must be skilled at assuring clients that they are investing wisely.

In a recent interview, H.G. "Toby" Mumford, director of bank sales at Franklin Templeton Group in San Mateo, Calif., discussed the knowledge that brokers must have to sell international funds.

What kind of broker is best at international sales?

The broker best suited to sell international funds is somebody who has a broad understanding of economic markets on a global basis and who is fairly comfortable thinking internationally.

If you are uncomfortable thinking about it and talking about it then you're never going to do a very good job talking to customers about globalization.

What are the specific issues they must be on top of?

First of all, they have to understand the import-export business. They have to understand trading between countries and what creates a level field or an imbalanced field.

They have to understand the existence or lack of resources in various countries that causes them to trade with one another.

They have to understand the basic economics of supply and demand.

They have to understand what the various trading groups and political organizations are.

Also, it's a question of what you're reading to stay on top of things.

I think if somebody is going to be selling international funds, they should be a regular subscriber to things like The Asian Wall Street Journal, Far Eastern Economic Review, Financial Times.

These are English publications that are going to give you a good overview of what's happening both politically and economically.

With such a wide variety of global funds available, it seems a daunting task to stay up on all the issues that you have raised.

It really is. And I'm not saying you need to be an expert in all of them. I think what you need to be able to do is to become an orchestrator of other managers.

I'm not suggesting that any rep or any broker at any time should be as expert as the portfolio manager.

But he needs to be able to have enough information so that he can constantly be testing the capabilities of that portfolio manager.

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