EVEREN reportedly is pushing its Mentor Funds, of which it is part owner, along with Wheat First Butcher Singer (now Wheat First Union). One rep reports the firm has been offering double credits and sales trips for the last year, with the intent to increase sales of the product. EVEREN currently owns 20% of the fund group and its ownership stake apparently grows as sales take off.
This seems to fly in the face of the firm's stated stern policy against sales contests on mutual funds. The same rep says in the past he qualified for a five-day trip for his production with AIG Funds, but was not allowed to go because of EVEREN's strict interpretation of NASD rules, which require incentive trips sponsored by outside vendors to be related to due diligence.
But this year, apparently, EVEREN is offering five-day "due diligence trips" to London and Squaw Creek, in Northern California, for brokers with more than $500,000 in production in the Mentor Funds. Mentor's international office is headquartered outside London. "It's beyond hypocritical," this rep says.
Others concede the sales contest does seem to contradict the past policy, but deny that reps are being forced to sell the funds. "We have no pressure to do any more or any less," says an EVEREN broker in the Midwest. "They have a sales contest for Mentor [but] that is not unlike sales contests we have for any other fund provider whom we bring in as one on our favored list. We almost always have sales contests or boosted payout when we bring in a new provider."
An EVEREN spokesperson says the firm does not sponsor sales contests. The trips to Squaw Creek and London are informational and related to due diligence, the spokesperson says.
"We regard these due diligence meetings as part of our overall professional development program," he says. "Participants do need to qualify by doing business with a particular product and expressing an interest in doing more. It's important that individuals participating do qualify, as we consider it to be advanced training."