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Monday, June 19, 2006

Hancock Continues Sales Push

Reported by Marie Glancy

A year ago, John Hancock Financial Services signaled commitment to its mutual fund business when it announced it would adopt several funds from Boston-based institutional asset manager Grantham, Mayo, Van Otterloo & Co.(GMO). With that process now completed, and GMO in place as sub-advisor to the seven, the firm is looking back on twelve months of sales growth and ahead to more strategic moves.

"We have not been sitting still," the president and CEO of Hancock's funds unit, Keith Hartstein, told the MFWire. A multi-manager fund of funds and an International Classic Value Fund were added to the line-up; the funds in a new lifestyle portfolio, launched in November, have been selling at the rate of roughly 4 million dollars' worth a day. "We would hope GMO brings the same boost to our sales," Hartstein said.

But Hancock's plan to invigorate investors doesn't stop at new products. After completing a month-long "road show" attended by 2,400 financial advisors, and with a wholesaling staff that's roughly doubled in the past year, the company looks serious about the goal John Hancock Financial Services president and CEO, John DesPrez, has more than once named: becoming a "top-tier player" in the U.S. mutual fund business. In the first quarter of 2006, Hancock increased sales by 49 percent over the same period in 2005, and net fund flows hit $779 million.

"We're taking all the steps necessary to propel us into the top tier," Hartstein affirmed. "This is the next step in this evolution."

Encompassing seven funds, the relationship with GMO represents Hancock's most broad-based to date, he said, and is designed to bring institutional investment managers to the retail investor. The minimum investment for GMO's standard clients recently increased from $5 million to $10 million, he said.

"We're not interested in bringing in the same sub-advisors that everybody else works with," Harstein said of Hancock's exclusive arrangements. "The only place you'll have access to these seven mandates from GMO is through John Hancock, if you're a retail investor."

Hartstein said Hancock is "still out there looking for additional relationships... if there are other institutional managers who can fill a gap in our product line." The firm is currently in discussion with another sub-advisor regarding a "one-off transaction" involving a single fund, and also expects to continue adding wholesalers nationwide into 2007.

The new GMO sub-advised funds are: the US Core Fund, the Intrinsic Value Fund, the International Core Fund, the International Growth Fund, the Growth Opportunities Fund, the Value Opportunities Fund, and the Growth Fund.  

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