Scudder, Stevens & Clark has snared an exclusive endorsement to market investment products through the American Medical Association, one of the nation's largest affinity groups.
The agreement, unveiled Tuesday, gives the New York-based mutual fund company a leg up in marketing its wares to more than 300,000 AMA-member doctors and medical students. Observers said the arrangement meshes with Scudder's efforts to recapture market share it has lost in recent years as the battle for high-net-worth investors has intensified.
Starting in June, Scudder will begin pitching its full range of products and services-from discount brokerage to financial planning-through direct mail and advertisements placed in AMA publications. Members would receive discounts on brokerage fees and reduced minimums for asset advisory services.
"This is a situation where one plus one equals three," said Mark S. Casady, chairman of Scudder, Stevens & Clark's mutual funds group. "Scudder has a broad lineup of products and services to bring to the AMA, and the AMA has a lot of doctors who are very busy with their practices" and need assistance planning their finances.
The contract with the AMA is the second high-profile sponsorship that Scudder has received. The company in 1985 was endorsed by the American Association of Retired Persons, an arrangement that has produced almost half, or $14 billion, of the $37 billion of assets the mutual fund group manages.
While alliances of this type can work very well, affinity agreements are also rife with challenges, said Joy Montgomery, president of Money Marketing Initiatives, Morristown, N.J.
"The AMA's demographics are wonderful, but this is a very independent group that's hard to get to from the investment side." In that way, she said, it's a markedly different proposition from the AARP program, which is geared to a vast membership-one million people above age 50-many of whom look to the AARP for direction.
Doctors may like the discount brokerage services that allow them to make their own investment decisions, Ms. Montgomery said. But, she added, about half of the association's members "are already getting full service investment advice from the Merrill Lynches of the world."
Scudder recognizes that it will have to work hard to reach physicians, because they "lack a lot of time and trust," said Amy L. Donovan, Scudder's vice president in charge of the new AMA relationship. But Ms. Donovan, who joined the company in April from BankBoston Corp., said Scudder's marketing strategy is being tailored to doctors, and that should be a big draw.
She said the company sees a lot of potential in offering first-time investment opportunities to the 40,000 medical students who belong to the AMA.
One observer said Scudder, which traditionally catered to the well- heeled, seems determined to raise its profile with mainstream investors. It has, for instance, begun marketing its funds through Charles Schwab & Co.'s OneSource program.
Scudder also expects the AMA endorsement to provide nationwide visibility that will benefit its 60 bank clients. "Any time something big like this happens, it's a good thing for people we do business with," Mr. Casady said.
He described the bank channel as "a very important segment for us" and said brokers and trust officers could point to the AMA's blessing to illustrate Scudder's solid presence in the fund field.
The company's bank roster includes NationsBank Corp. and PNC Bank Corp. It also subadvises $2.4 billion of assets on behalf of banks, insurance companies, and other financial companies.
Mr. Casady has longtime ties to the banking community. Before joining Scudder in 1994, he was institutional sales manager at Concord Financial Group. Before that, he oversaw the institutional investment business at Northern Trust Corp.