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Monday, June 09, 2003

GE Trimming Lineup

by: Sean Hanna, Editor in Chief

GE Asset Management is trimming the number of mutual funds it will offer investors. The firm will eliminate seven funds, including three funds targeted at institutions and four for individuals. All told the funds have garnered just $72 million in assets.

It is the lack of investor interest in the funds as measured by their size that is dooming them, according to the company. GE Asset Management manages $2.2 billion in mutual fund assets. It manages roughly $173 billion for institutional investors, including the pension and retirement programs of its parent companies.

The decision to liquidate the funds was revealed in an SEC filing Friday and was made because of "customer preference" and lack of sufficient interest, according to a spokesperson. "This is part of our focusing more resources on our core funds. We are very committed to the fund business and will continue to offer mutual funds," said the spokesperson.

The retail funds earmarked for closure include the GE Mid-Cap Growth Fund, the GE Mid-Cap Value Equity Fund, the GE Premier Research Equity Fund and the GE Premier International Equity Fund.

On the institutional side the funds being shuttered include the GE Institutional Premier Research Equity Fund, the GE Institutional Premier Research International Equity Fund and the GE Institutional Europe Equity Fund. Those funds do not carry loads and are sold to qualified plans, primarily 401(k) plans, said the spokesperson.

After the cuts, GE Asset Management will continue to offer 16 retail funds sold through advisors and 12 institutional funds. The closings will have no impact in terms of people and GE Asset Management will continue to manage assets in these strategies for institutional clients, said the spokesperson.

The retail fund unit has struggled to win market share in both the direct retail and the advisor sold segments of the fund market. At the height of the dotcom bubble, for example, the firm made the decision to sell its funds directly to investors through its Web site. That move ruffled the feathers of some advisors concerned with the potential for channel conflict created by that move.

Meanwhile, GE also said that Eugene Bolton, its chief investment officer for U.S. stocks, would retire. His position will be taken over by David Carlson in September. Bolton has spent 39 years at the firm. 

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