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Rating:Mutual Fund Distribution Reshapes Post-Lehman Not Rated 0.0 Email Routing List Email & Route  Print Print
Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Mutual Fund Distribution Reshapes Post-Lehman

Reported by Neil Anderson, Managing Editor

As fundsters look back on the collapse of Lehman Brothers, one year ago today, many things have changed. Perhaps the biggest shifts for the mutual fund industry have involved their distribution partners, the broker-dealers.

None of the five wirehouses emerged from the financial crisis unscathed. September 15, 2008 was also the day Bank of America unveiled its purchase of Merrill Lynch. Wells Fargo later took over Wachovia and its various B-Ds (including a bank channel, an independent channel, and the wirehouse/A.G. Edwards hybrid). This year Citi sold a controlling stake in Smith Barney to Morgan Stanley, creating the giant wirehouse Morgan Stanley Smith Barney. And while UBS stayed put, it sold up to 55 branches (with 320 advisors) to regional BD Stifel Nicolaus, and some of the UBS wirehouse's corporate staff suffered as part of the 11 percent worldwide cuts instituted by its Swiss parent.

All that shaking has left fund execs with more paperwork and more uncertainty.

"There has been a little bit of re-checking in," one fund marketing chief told the MFWire. "I'm not sure if all the shoes have dropped yet."

"These organizations are just busy with a lot of internal stuff," a top fund sales and marketing exec added. "We've almost been forced to migrate towards the firms that are more stable."

In one fundster's mind, the wirehouses are "so preoccupied with retaining brokers, mergers analyst teams, and admin work" that they don't have much time to pay attention to fund firms.

"We've kind of written them [some wirehouses] off until they get their stuff together," that fundster told the MFWire.

As the dust settles at the wirehouses and the super-regionals, a new list of mutual fund gatekeepers is emerging: Paul Hatch at MSSB; Andy Gottfried at Raymond James; Erin Donnelly at Merrill; Ed O'Connor at UBS; and more. And the good news for fundsters is that, even as the markets have improved, the broker-dealers have started to settle into their new grooves.

"We're just starting to see that break open right now," one fund distribution exec observed. 

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