State Street Boston Corp. is stepping up its efforts to market its Seven Seas proprietary mutual funds to the public.
The bank, which currently sells the funds mostly to institutional investors, plans to make a greater effort to interest financial planners in the portfolios.
The move comes as the bank seeks to raise the profile of the Seven Seas portfolios, which aren't sold through bank retail channels.
"My sole directive is to raise external assets for the Seven Seas funds," said William M. Thomas, national sales director for the funds at Russell Fund Distributors, a division of Frank Russell Co., Tacoma, Wash. Since taking over sales management for the funds last year, he said, "I've kept my head down and charged ahead."
Money market and indexed funds command the lion's share of State Street's proprietary fund assets. Assets in its primary money market fund topped $2.6 billion at the end of the third quarter.
By comparison, the Seven Seas S&P 500 index fund held $521 million in assets, and the actively managed equity portfolio accounted for $200 million.Mr. Thomas is relying on his six years selling corporate cash management services for Concord Financial Services to consolidate State Street's success in the niche.
Better known for the investment management and custody services it performs for corporations and other banks, State Street's low-profile mutual funds belie its success.
Without converting trust assets or maintaining a branch network, the venerable Boston bank has targeted institutional customers to gather more than $7 billion in assets in 13 proprietary funds.
Since its launch on March 1, 1994, with $626,000 in assets, Seven Seas' Emerging Markets fund has grown to more than $70 million in assets, largely due to its popularity with financial planners, Mr. Thomas said.
An actively managed international fund begun this March has mirrored that asset growth, even in a year when the international sector is underperforming the domestic market.
The fee income to be earned managing equity funds is the reason for Mr. Thomas' current focus on two new international funds.
"From a revenue side, for every dollar in an equity fund I'd have to sell three dollars in cash management," Mr. Thomas said.
The reputation of State Street's Global Advisory unit as an astute money manager has attracted interest in the two funds despite their short track records, several executives said.
Seven Seas funds are offered on a no-load basis to financial advisers through Charles Schwab & Co., Pershing, and Jack White & Co.
Although many fund company's choose to sell their funds directly to individual investors through the same services, Mr. Thomas rejects that option.
"I'd be competing directly with the advisers who brought me to where I am today," said Mr. Thomas.
But an even more important alliance could be imperiled if State Street pushed the funds too hard.
"As one of the largest custody and shareholder record-keeping providers to the mutual fund industry, they have to be very cautious about not becoming too aggressive in a retail context," said Geoffrey H. Bobroff, a mutual fund consultant based in East Greenwich, R.I. "There's clearly been a level of resistance to being too visible."