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Invesco Funds Group of Denver, the global money manager with $350 billion in assets under management, is hiring six new wholesalers for its broker/dealer sales channel and has just filed a registration for the first of several new funds which will be sold exclusively in the financial intermediary channel.

That is a departure for Invesco which has built its reputation managing no-load funds sold directly to investors. In recent months, however, it has tried to strengthen its presence in the intermediary channel.

Invesco is now trying to fill six new wholesaling positions it has created in key markets - Florida, Georgia, New Jersey, metropolitan New York and St. Louis. Invesco has been realigning its wholesaling force to assign individuals to hubs of concentrated business, said Ray Cunningham, senior vice president and national marketing director for Invesco.

Last March, Invesco had four wholesalers. That grew to 12 during the second half of last year, said Cunningham. That will increase to 30 by next year.

The expansion has been prompted in part by the success Invesco has already enjoyed in expanding into the wirehouse and broker/dealer sales channels. Smith Barney recently introduced six of Invesco's proprietary mutual funds into its TRAK personal investment program, and Merrill Lynch has included Invesco's funds in its mutual fund wrap programs, said Cunningham. Several large regional broker/dealers, including American Express of Minneapolis and Raymond James of St. Petersburg, Fla., have added Invesco funds to those their representatives can suggest to clients.

During the first three months of this year, Invesco took in $2.7 billion in net new assets through the intermediary channel, said Cunningham. That represents one-third of the $8 billion in new assets Invesco received during the first quarter. That is also double the $1.4 billion in assets that flowed into Invesco's funds through brokers during all of 1999. And that represents a 370 percent increase over the $570 million Invesco received through advisors in 1998. In 1997, Invesco attracted $57 million in new assets through brokers.

To get the attention of broker/dealers, Invesco has been revising its fund group. Last year, it pared its lineup of 41 funds to 33, merging some funds and closing others. In February of this year, Invesco added a level load "C" class of shares to six equity funds, providing further incentive for broker/dealers to sell the funds.

In yet another effort to build its sales in the broker/dealer channel, the fund company on May 2 filed with the SEC for a new series of mutual funds, the Invesco Advantage Series Funds. The funds will offer a choice of "A", "B" or "C" share classes and will be available exclusively through intermediaries. The first of these funds expected to be introduced is the Invesco Advantage Fund, an aggressive growth fund.

Invesco's plunge into the financial advisor channel raises the question whether the fund group is now infringing on territory previously relegated to its sister load fund group AIM Funds of Houston. In 1997, Invesco and AIM Management Group became subsidiaries of a new parent company, AMVESCAP of London.

"Our sister company, Invesco, should be doing this and we totally applaud this," said Mike Cemo, president of AIM Distributors. The trend is definitely toward direct-distributed fund companies building distribution through the intermediary channel, said Cemo.

"The load structure that has separated us is changing," he said.

Besides, the difference between the two companies is not as large as one might suspect, said Cemo. Only 24 percent of AIM's current fund sales are through traditional, front-end loaded "A" shares, said Cemo. Another 30 percent of sales come from wrap accounts or sales of $1 million or more for which sales charges are waived. The remaining 46 percent of sales are made through "B" and "C" share classes.

"We're all coming together in the middle," Cemo said.