Less than three months after turning to brokers to sell its funds,

Strong Funds

says it's abandoning its plans to levy a 0.25% marketing fee, known as a

12b-1 fee, on a dozen of its funds, according to papers filed with

Securities and Exchange Commission

.

A spokeswoman for the company said the firm is working a different plan to woo financial intermediaries and that it would be unveiled in the next six months.

Strong announced on March 2 that it would add adviser classes to 12 of its no-load funds, allowing them to be sold through brokers. The 12b-1 fees would have been used to pay advisers and brokers to sell the funds.

In recent years, fund companies that sell directly to the public and those who sell through brokers have experimented with each other's formats. Direct-sold firms like

Janus

,

Scudder

and

Gabelli

have added broker-sold classes to their funds or rolled out new series of funds to be sold through brokers.

The experiments have gone the other way too.

Federated

, a broker-sold fund complex, suspended front-end sales charges on four of its funds for several weeks.

Research, What a Concept

Here's an old spin on an old concept: Use research to find stocks for a fund to invest in.

Loomis Sayles

is coming out with a fund touting the research strategy. The new offering will be launched in August and will tap analysts who cover 11 sectors within the

S&P 500

index to come up with investment ideas.

The new

Loomis Sayles Research

fund will invest mainly in mid- and large-cap names, though its picks won't be limited to stocks within the index. Lauriann Kloppenburg, Loomis Sayles' director of equity research, will manage the funds and oversee the team of analysts.

Like the S&P 500, the new offering will have a combination of growth and value stocks, and Kloppenburg can shun large- and mid-cap names and even veer away from U.S. stocks if that's where the research takes her. With an expense ratio of 1.4% (thanks to a 0.08-percentage-point fee waiver through Feb. 1, 2001), the fund will compare favorably against the 1.44% average expense ratio for a U.S. domestic stock fund.

Northern Tech Manager Dies

Kevin Spoor, the 32-year-old co-manager of the

(NTCHX)

Northern Technology fund, died unexpectedly of natural causes on May 7.

"It's very hard for all of us here. Kevin was a good friend," says Jan Temple, the Chicago-based firm's director of marketing.

Spoor joined adviser Northern Trust about 17 months ago. He was named a co-manger of the fund, joining John Leo and George Gilbert, last September. Previously Spoor had been a semiconductor analyst for

Salomon Smith Barney

.

Launched in 1996, the fund has beaten its average peer in each calendar year since. Over the past year the fund, which focuses primarily on large-cap stocks, is up 86.3%, which beats its average peer and leads the S&P 500 by more than 77 percentage points, according to

Morningstar

. The fund posted a 135% return last year, matching the category average.

The firm has no immediate plans to replace Spoor, according to Temple.

Putnam Fills the Pipeline

Putnam Investments

is planning to run an international value fund and an aggressive growth fund in incubation, a possible prelude to launching them to the public.

The broker-sold fund giant has filed paperwork for two new funds with the

Securities and Exchange Commission

:

International Fund 2000

and

Equity Fund 2000

. The funds, which will probably commence operations in August, will be incubated and sold only to company employees until the firm decides whether to offer them to the general public or liquidate them.

If the funds eventually launch they will have new names, according to a Putnam official. The firm's recently launched New Century Growth, for instance, was born in incubation as

Equity Fund 1998

.

The international fund will take a value approach, focusing primarily on foreign mid- and large-cap stocks, according to the fund's filing. Omid Kamshad, Paul Warren and Joshua Byrne will hold the reins. The trio also manages $11.8 billion

(POVSX) - Get Report

International Growth fund with Justin Scott. That fund has been a smash, consistently beating its average peer in each of the past five calendar years.

The domestic fund looks like a high-octane growth fund focusing on small- and mid-cap growth stocks. Steven Kirson and Michael Mufson will be the skippers. The pair also runs $12.6 billion

(POEGX)

OTC & Emerging Growth . That tech-heavy fund has a mercurial record. Last year it rode tech stocks to a 127% return, for instance, but its 71% tech position has hurt this year. Over the last three months, the fund is down a whopping 43%, according to Morningstar.

Whether the funds see the light of day will depend on their performance and investors' appetites. Typically if an incubated fund doesn't launch within three years, it ends up being liquidated. Expense information on the new funds is incomplete. If the funds do launch, they'll almost inevitably levy sales charges or annual marketing fees to pay broker commissions.

In an unrelated move, Putnam also changed the name of the $2.4 billion

(PXGIX)

Growth & Income II fund to

Classic Equity

last week. The large-cap value fund has lagged at least 70% of its average value peers over the past one-, three-, and five-year periods. Manager Deborah Kuenster has only been at the helm since January 10, though.

Ian McDonald owns shares of Putnam International Growth and Putnam OTC & Emerging Growth.