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Value-Addeds' Get High-Tech Push


It's a given these days that if one sells wares through financial intermediary channels, so called "value added" services are a must-have to help brokers and reps consult, pitch, sell and manage their businesses. Moreover, investment management firms are getting "pushy," realizing that it's often more effective to selectively push information out to advisers, rather than expect them to trip over cool presentations or news and tips at proprietary Web sites.

John Hancock Funds of Boston isn't new to the business of providing value-added services, but it is decidedly committed to providing new "push" services. "We've aggressively embraced technology in our sales and marketing effort," said Keith Hartstein, executive vice president of sales and marketing at John Hancock.

Late last year, the firm began using the services of Brain Shark to push out data-rich PowerPoint slide presentations to brokers who sell its funds. Brain Shark of Burlington, Mass., is a Web-based software application firm that allows companies to upload a multiple-slide presentation, add synchronized voiceovers via telephone, set certain viewing preferences and deliver the presentation, on-demand, via a hyperlink embedded into an e-mail. The presentations are also subsequently archived within the financial intermediary section of John Hancock's Web site.

This past spring, just before the war with Iraq began, Hancock pushed out e-mails to 15,000 brokers linking back to an eight minute, seven-slide Hancock presentation on the impact of past wars on financial markets.

John Hancock has also been using such presentations, often approved by the NASD, for use with investors, to showcase new product introductions, explain the effects of tax law changes and address various topical issues. John Hancock executives or portfolio managers provide the narrative.

Reporting tools built into each presentation allow the firm to track who clicked through to the presentation, how long they listened and how many slides they viewed, Hartstein said. Armed with that data, the firm has been able to refine its presentations, such as trimming them to fit the recorded attention spans.

Brain Shark isn't exclusively used by John Hancock. Other clients of the firm include Alliance Capital, ING Investment Management, J.P Morgan Fleming, J&W Seligman & Co., Nuveen Investments, Putnam Investments, Scudder Investments and Wells Fargo Management.

In April, John Hancock, using the services of BYOBroadcast of Boston, started adapting various pre-recorded portfolio manager comments that have been offered for years to brokers via a recorded phone message line developed especially for intermediaries. The system allows John Hancock to create audio clips of particular fund managers that it can similarly push out via e-mails to intermediaries whose clients own a certain fund.

Simplicity was the key to the development of this communication sales tool, Hartstein said. There's no audio player for reps to have to first download, and reps don't have to have a vast technological aptitude to access the individual clip. Like Brain Shark, John Hancock can track who heard the clip and how long they listened, so that future clips can be better tailored to needs.

To be sure it's frequently touching financial intermediaries, John Hancock also selectively sponsors a care package in the form of a daily e-newsletter on business practices called The Daily Oats. The publication is a product of horsesmouth.com, the online service provider based in New York. The publication is sponsored by John Hancock in much the same way that a subscription to a print magazine would be, Hartstein said. The firm bought a block of sponsorships, offers key brokers a 60-day free trial and can make that permanent if the rep likes and uses it.

The Daily Oats e-mail newsletter is sent out directly by horsesmouth.com and covers a variety of issues including practice management topics such as how to motivate clients in a difficult environment, and three ways to build business, Hartstein noted. The daily e-mail is noted as being sponsored by John Hancock Funds. It contains both John Hancock's logo and the photo and name of the John Hancock wholesaler the individual rep can call.

For Hancock, the result of its efforts to reach out and touch brokers is immediate, Hartstein said. "This has been a very useful tool. We can see immediate results, and we can measure a sales benefit," Hartstein said. horsesmouth.com currently services several different asset management sponsors, including AIM Investments, BlackRock Investments, Evergreen Investments, ING Managed Accounts Group, OneGroup Investments and Nuveen Investments, which was the first firm to gobble up The Daily Oats two years ago.

Investment management firms are not the only subscribers to horsesmouth.com, said Steven Carchedi, executive vice president of the Web site. UBS Paine Webber and Charles Schwab are also current clients.

Moreover, while the newsletter article content is the same from firm to firm, additional content tailored to individual needs can be added, Carchedi said.

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