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T. Rowe Price, DTCC, Columbia Win Top Honors in SourceMedia Awards

Columbia Funds, T. Rowe Price and The Depository Trust & Clearing Corp. take top honors in SourceMedia's 2007 Fund Operations Awards. Now in its fifth year, the awards program is sponsored by Money Management Executive and judged by a panel of leading industry consultants. The awards honor industry leaders in three categories: Leadership, Innovation and Efficiencies/Streamlining.

Many thanks go out to this year's panel of judges for their time and consideration: T. Neil Bathon, managing director, PMR Associates, Peter Delano, senior analyst, investment management, TowerGroup, Bob Goldberg, president emeritus, The National Investment Company Service Association, Burton J. Greenwald, president, B.J. Greenwald Associates, Vincent Walsh, managing director, advisory services practice, KPMG and Kathleen Whalen, managing director, Dalbar.

Christopher L. Wilson, head of mutual funds and product management at Columbia Funds, is the winner of this year's first-place award for Leadership.

Faced with one of the biggest fund mergers in the history of the industry-Bank of America's $47 billion acquisition of FleetBoston Financial's fund division in 2004-Wilson and his team of 200 oversaw the integration of 209 products, 10,000 of them discrete, held in 2.5 million active accounts and serviced through three recordkeeping platforms and three custodians. Not only did Wilson have to integrate BoA's Nations brand with FleetBoston's Columbia division, but Columbia itself was a combination of seven families of mutual funds from earlier acquisitions.

The challenge was to streamline the infrastructure and to create a simplified product lineup. Columbia began by designating State Street as the sole custodian and fund accountant and Boston Financial as the sole transfer agent-and succeeded in integrating back-office servicing in 12 months.

Over the past three years, Columbia has accomplished a number of feats, not least of which is reducing the number of retail mutual funds from 125 to 75 and returning $200 million in savings to shareholders through reduced expense ratios.

Steve Krichmar, chief of operations, Putnam Investments, is this year's second-place winner, Leadership.

Previously a partner for 20 years at PricewaterhouseCoopers, Krichmar joined Putnam in 2004 to oversee a period of great transition at the firm: two major outsourcing projects, the sale of its distribution center and the conversion of Putnam's institutional defined contribution business to sister company Mercer HR Outsourcing.

Krichmar's overriding goal was to maintain service excellence for shareholders and ensure the firm's fiduciary responsibility to them. He began by working to minimize external turmoil by focusing on the people at Putnam, assuring those who were part of the transition that they would maintain their jobs.

Since then, Krichmar has continued to advocate an open environment where team members can speak openly and honestly about better solutions. As Putnam President and CEO Ed Haldeman said: "Steve understands that we have a special trust relationship with our shareholders. They trust us to take care of their money. This is Steve's driving principle in all he does."

Ann Bergin, managing director and general manager, DTCC Wealth Management Services, is this year's third-place winner, Leadership.

Probably the biggest challenge facing the separately managed account industry today is integrating money managers' systems with the proprietary platforms of sponsors. To create a centralized communications platform through which managers and sponsors can pass trades through a virtual straight-through-processing connection, Bergin began by working with the Money Management Institute.

Once DTCC and MMI had developed communication standards for managed accounts, then, in 2006, Bergin convinced Citigroup Smith Barney, the industry's largest managed account sponsor, to join DTCC as the charter participant in DTCC's Managed Account Service. Already, a number of other participants are testing the service, on target to launch this fall.

T. Rowe Price is the first-place winner of this year's Innovation category, for having created a collaborative information-sharing tool for its retail call center intranet.

In May 2006, the firm conducted an investigation on its intranet and found that information was not being published or maintained in real time and that links between complementary information either didn't exist or were broken. Thus, service representatives often had to rely on e-mails or phone calls to resolve investors' questions, repeating them several times down a chain of command.

T. Rowe Price decided to empower call center representatives to be able to update the intranet via a tool that incorporates wikis, forums, RSS feeds, bookmarking and tagging. Questions can now be answered once, and the answers are made available for all other associates.

Within two weeks of implementation, 33% of all of the call center associates were using the tool to answer tax and IRA inquiries. The intranet also allows them to communicate concerns and suggestions back up to management. Further, because it is user-intuitive, when call center volume is high and additional reps are needed, all hands can be brought on deck with minimal, if any, training.

John Hancock Signature Services, the transfer agent for John Hancock Funds, is this year's second-place winner for Innovation.