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Friday, July 25, 2014

Connolly Builds His Putnam Wrecking Crew

Reported by Tommy Fernandez

This is what it must look like when a tank squad breaks through the opposition.

Putnam Investments has had some solid investment performance recently, achieving the number 2 rank out of 55 fund families for five-year performance according to Lipper/Barron's at the end of 2013. In fact, it had achieved the number one fund family ranking in two of the past four years in this ranking.

Like any good tank commander, Putnam's head of global distribution Bill Connolly, is assembling a wrecking crew to capitalize on all the marketing advantages afford by this prime performance numbers.

These plans include the addition of 40 more wholesalers to the Putnam team, which already consists of 60 externals and 60 internals. The new hires will be spread 20-20 to each side.

In fact, gross sales year-to-date have been up 60 percent for Putnam, with net sales already crossing $4.5 billion, which surpasses all of last year's $3.8 billion in sales for the company. This is the strongest flows the firm has seen since 2000.

"We came into this year off a very successful 2013, both in the form of performance as well as net sales growth. People felt very good about that from the context of seeing that Putnam had broad-based performance," Connolly recently told MFWire. "We made sure that we went out and told that story as aggressively as possible."

Part of this strategy, according to Connolly, has involved the hosting of a number of due diligence meetings with clients across the country, as well as in Boston. For example, Putnam has held ten such meetings in Boston for some of the firm's top advisor clients and other firms.

In addition to discussing Putnam's investing performance, Connolly and his team has banged the drum for a number of social media initiatives, including a campaign designed to help advisors increase their referral base via Linkedin.

Some of the Putnam products that have seen boons in performance, and flows, have included the Putnam Equity Income Fund, Putnam Capital Spectrum Fund, Putnam Multi-Cap Core Fund,Putnam Europe Equity Fund, and Putnam Equity Spectrum Fund.

"We feel very good about the momentum. We are implementing a higher touch strategy across all channels. We certainly see that continuing, from the standpoint of working with the clients," he said.

This aggressive high-touch campaign has also included a lot more work with the fund platforms. Now that Putnam's products have all crossed the five-year mark, with many going over ten years, "demand from the research platforms has increased greatly," according to Connolly.

For instance, the ten person team led by Jim Bumpus has been reaching out more aggressively to the major wirehouses and private banks. The 12-person team led by Mark Coneeny has likewise kicked up its work with the independents and RIAs. Both teams are being supported by the portfolio strategists led by Scott Sipple. Cathy Saunders is leading Putnam's big push into the large platforms in the RIA space.

What are they hearing from the platforms? Connolly says that there is a lot of interest, of course, in liquid alts, particularly the "go anywhere" strategies and absolute return products.

Connolly is also seeing a lot of flows in fixed-income.

"When markets change and the incumbents stumble, you are going to get an opportunity. And some of these incumbents have stumbled. They are great firms, but like anything else, people note when they make a change. Clients that have too much of a concentration with an incumbent, they start to look at others," he said. 

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