Summit Mutual Funds says the marketing efforts it's extended to the advisor community over the past two years are paying off. Net inflows in the first half of 2007 in certain products are up as much as 200 percent through some distribution partners, such as Charles Schwab and TD Ameritrade, says David Mazza, national marketing director for the Cincinnati-based fund company.
The funds now have about $1.3 billion in assets under management, with broker-dealers/advisors accounting for less than $100 million. "We've gotten our feet wet," says Mazza.
The performance of its funds has certainly facilitated this process. Summit's fixed-income funds have been recognized as Lipper Leaders from 2005-2007. And some of its large-cap funds have been in the top 10 percent of their respective category since 1999. "They have a good expense ratio, strong performance and a portfolio-management style that is consistent," Mazza says. "The Lipper awards help us tell the story."
It takes time to forge relationships with broker-dealers and get through the legal hoops, he adds. "In the next few years, we hope to dramatically increase our sales staff," Mazza says, as the fund group expands its BD network.
"Not being a household name can be like a double-edged sword," according to Mazza. Advisors and their clients want to hear about new firms that are unique, but that status makes it tougher for Summit when it's trying to make introductions.
Summit aims to make a splash at conferences, where it can spread the word to advisors looking to offer their clients something new. It draws reps to its booth with colorful squishy toys shaped like cows wearing chef's hats and aprons. Regional recipes are attached to the toys and customized for events, along with the phrase, "Come see what's cooking."
"You have 30 seconds to a minute to meet people and make a fast presentation," Mazza says. "Five years ago, we turned to trinkets to help make us seem more interesting and to help us talk to more people."
As it ramps up its sales force, Summit plans to broaden its fund menu and get into more wrap programs/managed accounts. "We want to introduce funds that will mix well with our core competency, which we are exploring," concludes Mazza.
Janet Levaux is the managing editor of Research; reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.