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INVESCO's National Sales Manager Charts Firm's Evolution

In September, Tom Kolbe was named national sales manager of INVESCO after joining the firm in 1999 as its institutional sales manager. Kolbe's quick rise to the top is made more remarkable by the fact that he has just 10 years experience selling financial services. Prior to joining INVESCO, Kolbe sold fixed and variable annuties and life products for Protective Life Insurance in of Texas. His career path was leading him to the position of regional sales manager for the firm when he left to join INVESCO. Mutual Fund Market News caught up with Kolbe and discussed his new role and INVESCO's shift into the advisor channel. An edited version of his conversation with Andrew Greene follows.

MFMN: What about INVESCO prompted you to join in 1999?

Kolbe: The reason I chose to join INVESCO was three-fold: The tremendous strength of the AMVESCAP parent organization, the understanding that the future of the marketplace belonged to strong global entities that were in a position to create global partnerships for not only vertical selling but horizontal selling as well. The second part was I looked at brand growth and INVESCO seemed to be having tremendous brand growth and had strong brand recognition. They made a fundamental marketing shift into participation in the broker-dealer community, fee-based planning. That seemed to be a very important direction then and as it continues to grow today as well.

MFMN: That's interesting because that was a shift many no-load firms took in an effort to sell through intermediaries. How did INVESCO do that and how have those efforts gone?

Kolbe: I think a lot of credit has to go to Ray Cunningham (COO), Mark Williamson (CEO) and to Rich Healy (director of marketing)--individuals who joined INVESCO around 1998 and made the decision to shift our focus. I think they had, and continue to have, strong relationships with the broker-dealer community. At that point in time I think the distinction was blurring between load and no-load. When the emphasis became the move toward fee-based, the clients' emphasis shifted to, I'm paying the broker for advice, information and proper planning that will serve me in the long-term. Therefore, I'm also asking the broker to provide me with the best investment choices out there.' To the client, it no longer mattered if the origin was load or no-load, it was simply a matter of, Get me the best funds to meet my needs.'

MFMN: Things have changed since 1998. Obviously performance is not what it was and the markets have flip-flopped. Has that had any impact on INVESCO's strategy?

Kolbe: I think there are a couple of pertinent points to that. Number one, we've maintained excellent service and communication with all levels of the industry vis-a-vis information that can be distributed to clients. Our key accounts have done a fantastic job at the home office level to communicate on a timely basis what we're doing and how we're doing it. And the same thing is happening at a wholesale level. We continue to provide timely information to our brokers so they understand our processes.

Number two, we have certainly been perceived in the marketplace as a growth manager. What we have done as a firm is to say, It's very important for us to stick to our discipline of management. It has served us well over three, five, and 10 years. To abandon that to be just strictly an index fund and give up our ability to pick stocks is not our desire.'

So we've stayed very focused on what we do really well, which is identifying solid management and solid earnings, increasing revenue over time. And we believe that when the market turns towards growth investing that we will be rewarded to a larger degree than our competitors. We continue to spread the word throughout the community that we are a diverse management group capable of providing a strong value approach to management through our funds as well as our already perceived to be excellent growth funds. And of course we continue to have a niche in the sector market place and we continue to present our sectors as an important complement to an asset allocation model.

MFMN: In what sort of products do you see a lot of demand and what sort of products are you developing?

Kolbe: I think we continue to focus on those funds that we feel the market has a demand for. Obviously, the market continues to embrace value style funds so we continue to go out and promote and make the market aware of our ability in the value area. Inside INVESCO, our Dynamic mid-cap growth fund continues to be an attractive area.