A new product is helping to level the playing field for banks advisers as they compete with independent advisers.
SEI Investments of Oaks, Pa., a provider of investment technology and management expertise to the financial industry, is now offering bank advisers the same services it has sold to other advisers for years.
The program, essentially a revised version of products the company has sold to retirement plan sponsors and investment advisers, is designed to help banks be successful in the investment segment, said Richard Lieb, president of investment management services. The program does not have a formal name.
SEIs investment expertise will help banks compete with other advisers, who increasingly are targeting the assets of bank depositors, said Rob Prucnal, senior vice president.
Robert Crudup, executive vice president, said SEI is redoubling its efforts to attract bank advisers because it has underserved them in the past. He added that the amount of assets at banks is a significant opportunity.
The program offers mutual fund portfolios modeled after those of the top two dozen or so investment advisers in the country, Mr. Prucnal said. It regularly tracks the portfolios of 15,000 advisers, and the model portfolio adds and deletes advisers as the performance of their portfolios changes, he said.
SEI calls the program its manager of managers style of investing. It lets advisers with limited resources create their own packages and sell a line of mutual funds to retail customers based on top performers, according to Mr. Prucnal.
Mr. Crudup said that advisers can put their brand name on the funds, and most do.
This method of selling mutual funds offers solid returns to investors and at the same time substantially reduces risk, Mr. Prucnal said. You can sleep better knowing that our machine is keeping track of trades, he said.
The program includes tools to help advisers use cash-sweep programs and to access money market funds, repurchase agreements, and intraday loans, Mr. Prucnal said.
Gregory Knopf, managing director in Los Angeles of Union Bank of Californias HighMark Funds, said the program would be particularly attractive to advisers at small to midsize banks who want subadvisory services without having to buy or build the expertise.
There would be institutions that would find it attractive, he said.
However, Charles Wendel, president of Financial Institutions Consulting in New York, said that whether bank advisers buy the product depends largely on the performance of SEIs funds.
Most large fund companies offer balanced funds similar to SEIs manager of managers approach, and many have probably performed as well as, if not better than, SEI, Mr. Wendel said. Its funds will have to outperform others to attract banks to the program, he said.
Mr. Prucnal said that SEIs technological capabilities are largely what distinguishes its program. The combination of investment knowledge and technological resources is important for creating a first-rate investment product line, he said, and many banks lack both.
He stressed that SEIs variety of products gives it the ability to address most problems a bank adviser encounters when setting up an investment business. The only other options for banks are to build their own products or buy an existing business, he said.
SEI plans to expand the program this year to include separate accounts, which operate like personalized mutual funds, Mr. Prucnal said.
Mr. Crudup said SEI is also planning a marketing campaign for the program and that it has eight to 10 wholesalers dedicated to serving banks.
The company said it hopes the program will build on its success in selling wrap products to banks. A report by mutual fund research company Cerulli Associates in Boston said that SEI became the largest seller of mutual fund wrap products last year, with roughly 18% of the market.
SEI, with about $79 billion of assets under management, manages $5 billion for banks, Mr. Crudup said.