The word in the industry is that Liberty Financial Bank Group, a leading marketer of investment products through financial institutions, will soon purchase a major rival.

The scuttlebutt is that the Boston-based company is close to signing a deal with Independent Financial Marketing Group, a White Plains, N.Y., firm with 108 bank clients.

Purchasing the privately owned Independent would more than double Liberty's bank client roster, making it the fifth-largest third-party marketer in the country.

Liberty Financial Bank Group, a subsidiary of money manager Liberty Financial Cos., currently ranks 12th with 110 banks. A company spokesman would not confirm or deny rumors, but acknowledged, "Everyone knows that Liberty is in an acquisition mode."

Indeed the purchase would be the second for Liberty since June. Then, it acquired the bank marketing unit of Wall Street Investor Services, a discount brokerage operation in New York.

Independent Financial's principals did not return inquiries.

Rumors of a deal were circulating two weeks ago at the Bank Investment Representative conference in Chicago. One mutual fund sales executive who attended said: "It smells like a real deal to me."

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