MENOMONEE FALLS, Wis. - As part of an unusual move to "flatten" the company, Strong Capital Management Inc. combined institutional and intermediary marketing and client service in a single department and named a portfolio manager as its head.
The changes are the likely reason Michael E. Fisher, managing director and head of institutional business, quit his job.
Strong is best known for its retail mutual funds, but about one-sixth of its $30.3 billion in total assets is managed in institutional separate accounts.
Mr. Fisher requested a severance package about three weeks ago, said Bradley C. Tank, who indirectly replaced him. Mr. Fisher was vacationing and didn't return phone calls seeking comment.
The "delayering" of the company meant several layers of sales managers were eliminated, including to some extent, Mr. Fisher's position at the head of institutional marketing, Mr. Tank said.
"From his standpoint, Mike was used to running a business," Mr. Tank said. Mr. Fisher wasn't forced out, but his job was changing, he added.
Mr. Fisher, well-known in the industry for his institutional marketing prowess, came to Strong in late summer 1995 from Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States, New York. Earlier, he was a managing director and chief marketing manager for institutional business at Bankers Trust Co., New York. His career spans more than 25 years.
The intermediary services unit handled business from mutual fund alliances, financial advisers, insurance companies and brokers. The unit was headed by Donald Tyler, whose job was eliminated in the restructuring. Mr. Tyler couldn't be reached for comment.
Under the new structure, Mr. Tank, director of Strong's fixed-income department, added titular command of the new institutional/ intermediary group, which contributed a combined $17 billion under management as of Sept. 30. He will continue to co-manage separate accounts and $3 billion in four bond mutual funds.
The new unit is split into five business groups, which all report to Mr. Tank. "It's mainly a reporting relationship and, in fact, all the groups report up to the Office of the CEO (of which Mr. Tank is one of four members)," Mr. Tank said.
Mr. Tank said Strong executives hope combining the units will eliminate redundancies in functions, share common resources (marketing support, phone centers) and improve communication.
"The changes are designed to bring intermediary and institutional account managers closer to the investment management process so they can bring their clients closer, as well," Mr. Tank said.
The changes are part of modest across-the-board cuts of 51 employees. Richard S. Strong, chairman, said in an internal memo he wants to refocus the firm "on only two things: investment performance and client service."
No changes are planned in the retirement plan services unit.
Industry observers expect Mr. Fisher will have no trouble finding a new job. "He is one of the true gentlemen and an ambassador for our industry," said Glen Davis, a consultant at Eager Manager Advisory Services Inc., Louisville, Ky.
Observers aren't worried about the organization of the company, but one expressed concern for institutional clients.
"In an institutional environment, clients are not going to be happy about seeing their portfolio managers doing anything other than managing money," said Ben Phillips, a consultant at Cerulli Associates Inc., Boston. "The trend . . . has been to move toward greater separation of portfolio management and any kind of administration."