Sales of mutual funds at banks won't keep pace with the rest of the brokerage industry if investors' voracious appetite for aggressive-growth funds continues.
Bank brokerage presidents say they expect overall June sales of mutual funds to exceed May's figures. They add, however, that bank customers remain relatively uninterested in the aggressive stock funds that are fueling fund sales by financial planners and traditional stockbrokers.
"A big part of our business is with people already in their retirement years," explained Lincoln Yersin, president of Amsouth Investment Services Inc., Birmingham, Ala. "The typical customer wants a diversified portfolio, but with a conservative slant."
Stock funds have been catapulting mutual fund sales in recent months, with more than $22.5 billion flowing into the funds in May, according to estimates from the Investment Company Institute.
Much of that cash flow is going into aggressive-growth funds. John Rea, the trade group's chief economist, noted in a statement that in May, new money into aggressive growth funds "appeared to keep pace" with April's strong level of $9.5 billion.
But for many bank brokerages, capturing some of that cash flow is difficult. At Amsouth, for example, aggressive-growth funds make up less than 5% of the brokerage's total mutual fund sales, even though equity portfolios make up 60% of sales, Mr. Yersin said.
Among the most popular are conservative-growth funds such as Aim Management Group's Weingartern Fund or Oppenheimer Main Street Income and Growth Fund, he said.
According to one fund company, bank customers' aversion to aggressive funds is slowing its sales through banks. At OppenheimerFunds, banks contributed 15% to total mutual fund sales in May, down from 18% two months ago.
"I would venture to say sales volumes at banks are not growing as fast because brokerage firms and financial planners are selling a much larger portion of the aggressive-growth funds," said Maryann Bruce, senior vice president overseeing sales through banks.
But she pointed out that sales through banks this month are likely to reach an all-time high for June. Sales this month of the Oppenheimer Discovery Fund, a portfolio that invests in "emerging" companies, are shaping up as fifth-best for a fund in her division.
At Aim Management, a Houston-based company known for its stock portfolios, the most popular seller through banks is Aim Constellation, a well-known aggressive portfolio.
But even executives there don't overlook the conservative reputation of banks.
"We're launching a new aggressive growth fund, and I'll bet you stockbrokers will knock the cover off it, and bankers will take a month to even look at it," said Michael Vessels, senior vice president overseeing sales to banks. The fund is to be launched today.
But the bank customer's aversion to aggressive-growth funds "may not be all that bad in light of a frothy stock market," says Edward Diamond, president of Dime Securities Inc. New York. "We may save ourselves some discomfort," from complaining customers if the market suddenly takes a dip, he said.
The Putnam Growth and Income Fund and the Oppenheimer Main Street portfolio helped the Dime Bancorp brokerage boost sales last month 20% over April, and should continue to do so in June, Mr. Diamond said.