Zurich Scudder Investments Inc. has begun a campaign to promote its new brand name, Scudder Investments, and remind banks, securities brokers, and independent financial advisers that it is more than just a pure mutual fund house.
William Glavin Jr., a managing director at Zurich Scudder Investments, said that though the campaign specifically targets intermediaries, he aims to make retail investors more aware as well of its separate account and wrap account programs.
Zurich Scudder, a New York division of the Swiss-based Zurich Financial Services Group, did not change its own name.
It kicked off the branding effort May 7 with a print ad campaign. The first ads appeared in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, and more were to follow in such publications as Forbes, Fortune, and Money Magazine.
Some Scudder funds will still offer no-load shares to current investors, such as Scudders various AARP funds geared toward retirees, but most of the no-load shares have been eliminated, Mr. Glavin said.
Mr. Glavin said that refocusing sales efforts toward intermediaries and away from direct sales to investors began several years ago but speeded up last November when Scudder decided to add load charges to all of its funds and to stop direct sales.
Scudder made that change because of large outflows from its funds, said Geoff Bobroff, a mutual fund analyst in Providence, R.I. Though Scudder would not confirm it, statistics from Financial Research Corp. in Boston show that investors withdrew $13 billion from the companys funds from the start of 1999 through March of 2001.
Just from last Sept. 30 to March 31 of this year, Scudders retail fund assets dropped by a similar $13.6 billion, or 17%, to $64.2 billion, according to Financial Research.
A Scudder spokeswoman said that at yearend Scudder managed $119 billion of institutional and retail assets in the United States.
Mr. Glavin noted that many of Scudders funds performed well during that same six-month period, such as its international funds; but even some of the better performers have suffered net redemptions, simply because those sectors are out of favor with investors.
Scudder is now streamlining its product line to eliminate redundant funds, Mr. Glavin said. For the most part, that involves folding Kemper funds into similar or identical Scudder funds, Mr. Glavin said.
The company is also shutting down funds that for one reason or another havent found their market, Mr. Glavin said. One example is Scudders tax-efficient funds, which pay minimal dividends and have little turnover.
We didnt see an opportunity for growth over the long term in those funds, Mr. Glavin said. A tax-efficient fund as a stand-alone product never really took off as a concept.
Mr. Bobroff, the mutual fund analyst, said Scudders real challenge is from a perception standpoint. The battle, he said, has more to do with how the company is perceived publicly than how effective it is as an asset manager.
Most of Scudders past problems for example, largely avoiding growth-oriented funds until last year, when those funds fell out of favor have been fixed by the companys management, he said.
Scudder has been so focused on rebranding that it has put most product introductions on hold, Mr. Glavin said, though a handful of variable annuity products have come out this month or are about to do so, he said.
Mr. Glavin said investors will still demand products that reduce capital gains taxes, regardless of the products overall investment style.
Mutual funds may therefore become less popular over the long term, which is why Scudder is trying to emphasize its array of products such as mutual fund wrap programs, separate accounts for retail investors, and online services such as FolioFN, Mr. Glavin said.
Were not hung up on defending the fortress of mutual funds, Mr. Glavin said. At our core we are not a mutual fund company, were an asset manager.
He said Scudder, whose parent company is already a huge player in the institutional separate accounts business, expects that mutual fund companies will turn more to retail separate account management, particularly as minimum balances drop and investors become more tax sensitive.
Most big players in retail separate accounts are brokerages such as Salomon Smith Barney and Merrill Lynch. For traditional mutual fund companies to sell their own separate account programs will require significant investments in technology to make their clearing systems compatible with the wire houses, Mr. Glavin said.
Scudder Kemper was formed in 1997 when Zurich Insurance Group bought Scudder, Stevens & Clark and merged it with Chicagos Kemper Financial Services, which it had bought the year before.