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Rating:The Little Fund that Could Not Rated 3.0 Email Routing List Email & Route  Print Print
Wednesday, April 11, 2001

The Little Fund that Could

Reported by Tamiko Toland

Burnham Asset Management has been holding its own over the past year, finding success in one sector fund. What has buoyed the New York firm's assets under management as the firm's flagship fund has sunk 15 percent in assets this year alone?

The Burnham Financial Services Fund (BURKX), which has been enjoying a solo spot at the top of the performance heap in its category. If you hold by the old adage, Burnham ought to be flattered that Nations Funds has just launched a similar fund itself, the very first in its sector lineup.

"There is a lot of money out there, and I think you really need to differentiate what you have and why it would be of interest to the buyer," said Debra Hyman, vice president at Burnham. "If you have a product that's different, God bless you. We've had a lot of interest in that little fund."

However, like many larger firms, Burnham has still pulled the reins on spending. The firm has cut one position and has no immediate plans to replace a marketer who recently left.

"One thing we've done on the mutual fund side is we've cut back travel to what is truly truly necessary and if we need to speak to people, we do conference calls," explained Hyman. "We were very lean to begin with. Where we've cut back [staff] is in wholesaling because we felt that, since traveling was cut back, it was hard for them to be effective."

Burnham has also scrutinized the value of conferences, paring its attendance down to those that really generate sales.

"We cut back to conferences we feel are truly necessary," said Hyman. "It's tough to really correlate where your sales are for some of these conferences, especially ones that are not dealer-related. Like a regional financial planning conference that's continuing ed, it's hard to trace the value of that long-term. So we're really looking at those that we feel are truly helpful for us to reach our target market."

Broker conferences typically make the cut, but those that serve attendees that are not all interested in mutual fund get the axe. Budget concerns have also inspired Burnham to start wheeling and dealing with distribution platforms.

"We're also trying to negotiate fees for lots of different services," said Hyman. "If you're going to be on one platform and it's not working for you, then you try to renegotiate the fees that you pay to that vendor."

Meanwhile, Burnham is maintaining close contact with the intermediaries that sell the funds. Burnham relaunched its Web site last month and has kept up its online and offline communications. 

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