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NICSA's First Woman President Outlines Organization's Efforts

Barbara Weidlich became the National Investment Company Association's first woman president in July. She succeeded Bob Goldberg, who had served as the organization's president for ten years.

With Weidlich's appointment comes a renewed emphasis on expanding NICSA's presence globally. The organization has been working in some European markets for years, but Weidlich, a German-born fund executive who has vast experience in Europe's fund business, brings new and uniquely qualified emphasis to those efforts.

Although she has lived in the Boston area since the early 1960s, Weidlich has spent much of her career building Europe's fund industry. She most recently served as managing director for BIL Fund Services in Dublin. Before that, she designed the strategy for launching State Street Bank and Trust Company's global offshore funds. She was also managing director of State Street Bank Luxembourg from 1989 to 1992.

Weidlich discussed NICSA's plans with Mutual Fund Market News reporter Tony Lystra.

MFMN: You have said you wanted to see NICSA expand its presence overseas - which has been a goal at NICSA for awhile. How do you plan to make that happen?

Weidlich: People have overlooked how successful NICSA has been overseas. We're coming up on the 10th anniversary of a conference by NICSA in Luxembourg. This last conference was right after Sept. 11 so the American presence was diminished. But there were 400 people there. If the Americans had been there, there would have been 500 or 600.

And NICSA and the Dublin Fund Industry Association. have worked together to host a conference. The fifth one is upcoming in June of 2002. We have an effort underway in Tokyo with the Kenzai Institute [a Japanese version of the Investment Company Institute]. That's still in the beginning stages.

So people don't realize how active NICSA has been internationally. And we have some ambitions to go further. We're looking at China and South America. Sometime in the next year we'll announce an alliance with an international group somewhere. That is our ambition.

MFMN: Why is NICSA placing such high importance on the international market?

Weidlich: Our membership has gone overseas increasingly. Some American companies have been acquired by foreign entities. The penetration of the mutual fund industry domestically is certainly very high and therefore international expansion is important.

Our membership wants to be abroad and we want to make it possible for the American companies to interact with their counterparts in the foreign locations they are working in. Those working overseas want to hear America's story.

But you can't just take the American story and supplant it overseas. Everybody has been working and hoping and praying that the retirement market is going to come alive in Europe and Asia, which has been a slower process. But when it opens it's going to do what it did for the U.S.

MFMN: Ideally, what would you like NICSA's role to be in those international regions?

Weidlich: We have certainly in the past been affiliating with the local fund associations and doing joint conferences. We are also seeing that there are conferences that are focused on particular issues that we could frame into courses or something other than conferences. But travel has been curtailed. So now we're looking at Web casting. But Web casting also presents a problem. You can't join Asia in one unless you turn your hours upside down. But I suppose we could catalogue it and people could access it later.

The conferences have always been in English in Luxembourg, but they have been translated into German and French. Now we're seeing more Spanish. I don't know how much of China speaks English. But there are challenges.

MFMN: How is NICSA's membership likely to change in the coming years?

Weidlich: We would certainly like to expand our membership with the firms that are putting together new product structures, such as the venture capital firms, the fund-of-funds firms, the law firms, the financial advisors. We'd like to include the law firms because so much of our business is about regulation and compliance; there's a natural extension there.

Right now our membership is about half the traditional fund firm. The other half is custodian, banks, and transfer agent companies. We believe we can expand this membership by expanding the other groups.

And, of course, our membership is about 10% international and I'd like to take that to 30%. I think that would also enrich the membership. But this is certainly not the first time that NICSA has thought about this. The heart of NICSA is really volunteer work. The execution of the idea is being supported by a very fine staff in the office, and that will allow us to do more.