It was a battle of money-management titans. In one corner stood the reigning champion, Fidelity Investments. In the other, five pesky rivals vying to break Fidelity's dominance of the fastest-growing segment of the financial-services industry--the $675 billion 401(k) market. The clash was over the management of retirement assets for the employees of Toro Co., the Minneapolis-based manufacturer of lawn mowers and snowblowers. At the end of a painstaking selection process last year, the champ was dealt a knockout blow. Gerald T. Knight, Toro's chief financial officer, says Fidelity lost out to the smaller Putnam Investments because its funds were too erratic and unfocused. "Our employees are not very sophisticated investors, and we needed very consistent and very disciplined funds," he says.
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