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Sales Director Rose From the Trenches

As senior vice president and director of national sales for Van Kampen Funds of Oakbrook Terrace, Ill., Dominic Martellaro is not just responsible for overseeing financial institutions, broker/dealers and financial advisors. He feels a special kinship with this audience. In his mind, he is one of them.

Martellaro, who began his career 16 years ago as a retail broker at Dean Witter in Denver, believes that genuinely understanding exactly what registered reps do on a daily basis means he is able to better address their needs.

"It is being able to walk the walk and talk the talk with them," he said. "There's a whole level of respect that goes with that."

Martellaro, who currently oversees a staff of some 60 external wholesalers and approximately 70 internal wholesalers for Van Kampen, was promoted last year. Since 1995, he had been Van Kampen's national sales manager for the broker/dealer west division. Two years ago, Van Kampen added the financial advisor division to target the growing population of financial planners/advisors.

Martellaro believes that the key to capturing the hearts and minds of intermediaries today is offering consultative advice and assistance.

"We want to become the firm that has a consultative approach, " he said. "We want to ask, How can we help you get that done? What can we bring you that can make a material difference in the way you forge relationships or grow your business?'"

Martellaro was born and raised in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He grew interested in the securities industry while earning his BS in finance from the University of Wyoming in 1983. After spending four years at Dean Witter, he joined Kemper Financial Services of Chicago in 1986 as a senior regional director based in the San Francisco Bay area.

There he was in charge of selling a variety of investment products including mutual funds, unit investment trusts and variable annuities through all intermediary sales channels. His territory included California, Oregon, Nevada, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and Alaska.

He vividly recalls exactly where he was during the October 1987 market meltdown.

"I was on the phone with a Dean Witter broker and had come out of the office to watch TV," he said. He watched closely as the reality of the market's dive emerged. "That taught me that everybody is fallible in terms of financial net worth. If you don't manage the risk, you can be devastated."

Seven years later, in 1993, Martellaro joined SEI Corp. of Oaks, Pa., as a sales manager in charge of institutional sales. SEI is an institutional-based company offering services such as asset allocation to high net-worth clients and bank trust departments. It was then that Martellaro realized major changes were afoot in the mutual fund business. The chasm between the retail side and the institutional side was slowly closing. The institutional asset management business, with its focus on asset allocation, risk management and style analysis was having more and more of an impact on the retail side, he said. He began to ask himself, "Why can't all of these tools be used by the retail client?"

"In reality, the end game is to get that same client," said Martellaro. "The customer doesn't change. The common goal is going after that same client." But the methodology of securing that client is changing for intermediaries who are moving away from product pitching. With the proliferation of information directed at the end-user, the investor, intermediaries must take an institutional approach, step back and provide other valuable services such as performing manager searches and selections, providing in-depth analysis of funds and recommending funds that particularly suit the needs of individual clients.

"You have to make yourself indispensable," he said.