he fund industry has lost one of its early leaders and part of its collective remembrance with the death Monday of Dan J. Hesser
. The former CEO of Invesco funds was one of the key figures inside the community of Denver-based fund firms and the unofficial historian of Invesco itself.
He saw much of that history first hand. After two years in the Army, including time spent overseas in Korea, Hesser joined the industry in 1961 when he went to work for Financial Programs, Inc
. That firm later became Invesco Funds. At the time Charles Gates, the head of a rubber company, owned the fund firm. Hesser later told reporters that the firm at that time did not know what strategy to pursue to build the fund business and was suffering from stagnant growth.
Gates' luck was reflected in the timing of his sale of the firm to Britannia Arrow Holdings. That deal was completed in 1982, just before the start of the bull market that converted the fund industry from a quiet backwater to the nexus of the retailization of investing.
Hesser oversaw the fund group through that period, shepherding the firm to more than $17 billion in assets from $2 billion when he initially took the CEO slot. Still, Hesser did face challenges even with the strong wind at the firm's back.
"He helped steer Invesco during the period in which direct-marketed firms struggled with the direct distribution model," notes Geoff Bobroff, an industry consultant based in Rhode Island. Invesco and Hesser faced strong competition right around the corner as Janus Capital built its reputation with retail investors through the nineties. "Having Janus in its backyard made it difficult in all of the ways that you would expect," said Bobroff.
Those issues ultimately led to the firm's sale to Amvescap.
Hesser himself retired from Invesco in 1998 and was succeeded by current CEO Mark Williamson. At that time he told a local Denver paper that he wanted to spend more time at his ranch with his family and horses. It was a horse accident on January 5 that directly led to Hesser's death yesterday.
Hesser was active in fund industry associations as well Denver area philanthropies. He was also a former chairman of the Colorado Symphony Association.
He was born December 27, 1939, in northern Oklahoma and is survived by his wife, four children, seven grandchildren and his twin brother Don.
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