A relative neophyte among investment product marketing firms has landed its biggest client yet and is now setting its sights on superregional banks.
BFP Financial Partners Inc., a two-year-old broker-dealer in Baltimore, will help Hudson United Bank of Mahwah, N.J., launch an investment products sales program.
The company, a unit of Legg Mason Wood Walker, received approval for the program late last month from the BFP board of directors. The program is scheduled to begin in April.
With 45 branches in northern New Jersey and $1.4 billion in assets, Hudson United Bank, a subsidiary of Hubco Inc., is the largest and the northernmost of BFP's 17 bank clients.
Julia A. McNeall, who will oversee brokerage activities at Hudson for BFP, said the deal is the first of several.
BFP's president, Rick C. Rogers, confirmed that his company is involved in discussions with various "superregional banks," some of which he said are in the $30 billion to $40 billion-asset range.
"While some third-party firms are retrenching," Mr. Rogers said, "we are expanding and going into the larger market."
In a random survey of 20 banks with more than $10 billion in assets, BFP found several that were looking for partnerships with brokerage firms. Specifically, the banks wanted to form ventures to enhance their proprietary fund distribution and to create wrap accounts, enabling them to charge fees for managing assets, he said.
"Fee income is what banks want," Mr. Rogers said in an interview. "When mutual fund commissions and annuity commissions are declining, the way to stay profitable is to go more fee-based."
But Mr. Rogers emphasized that his company will still pay attention to its current small clients, most of which have $500 million or less in assets. BFP's other bank clients are spread from Pennsylvania to Texas.
Hudson had previously had a "low-key" annuities program through another marketer, according to Theodore J. Doll, a senior vice president at the bank. Last July, Mr. Doll said, the bank decided to look for "full-service" brokerage activities and started evaluating proposals from three investment products marketing firms. He said the bank noticed that its clients were buying investment products, "but they weren't buying from us."
One reason Hudson United Bank chose BFP was the "excellent reputation" of the marketer's parent company, Mr. Doll noted.
Legg Mason, also based in Baltimore, is a financial services holding company that manages about $23 billion of assets through its subsidiaries. The company recently completed a merger with Boston-based Battery March, a $5 billion-asset international money management firm.