The Bank Securities Association is spearheading the creation of a forum for third-party marketing firms.

The Corte Madera, Calif., trade group announced last week it is sponsoring the TPM Forum, which is scheduled to have its first meeting next month during the BSA's annual convention in Phoenix.

James M. Shelton, the trade group's executive director, said that third- party marketers, who help banks set up and run investment product programs, have discussed getting together "for a long time."

The forum "didn't just happen overnight," said Mr. Shelton, adding that the concept has been in the works for several months.

Mr. Shelton and other industry executives said the need for a forum has become more apparent as a result of increased regulation of bank-sold investment products.

At the first meeting, the group will look at the impact that the National Association of Securities Dealers' proposed rules to regulate banks' brokerage affiliates will have on banks and the marketing firms that service them. The group will also discuss the implications of a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision permitting national banks to sell annuities.

"What affects banks affects third-party marketers," Mr. Shelton said.

The BSA's current president, Peter J. Succoso of Wilmington Trust Co., said that marketing firms are interested in getting together partly because investment products sales were down last year. The new forum would help them brainstorm about common concerns, he said.

"Nothing like a bear market to bring them together," he said.

Marketing company executives say they welcome the opportunity to get together.

Denis Kaplan, chairman of Independent Financial Services, White Plains, N.Y., said he and several other executives from his firm will be at the March forum.

"The whole concept of third-party marketing firms getting together and sharing ideas makes a lot of sense," Mr. Kaplan said, acknowledging that the recent NASD proposed regulations have only heightened marketers' concerns.

Eric Alexander, managing director of New York-based marketing firm Wall Street Investor Services, said attending the forum would probably be "very useful," especially if regulatory issues were discussed.

"That is certainly an area where even competitive firms need to work together," Mr. Alexander said.

So far about 15 marketing firms have signed up for the first meeting on March 6, and Mr. Shelton said he expects at least another 25 to come aboard by next month.

According to Mr. Shelton, about 15 major and several smaller third-party marketing firms are members of BSA. The seven-year-old trade group lists a total of 329 members that include banks, third-party marketing firms, and mutual fund companies.

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