Bruce Leto, who's been head of the investment fund law group at Stradley Ronon since 1994 -- so long ago that today's industry leader, Vanguard Group, was just a $100 billion-asset mutual-fund family the time -- says he and his rivals and clients in Philly's fund service industry got a little tired of having to support associations, galas and parties are up in New York.

Take, for example, "the Institutional investor Fund Awards. It's a black-tie affair with 600 or 700 people from all aspects of the fund industry. And a charitable component. People from Philadelphia go to that. But Philadelphia has a way deeper and richer history in the fund industry than New York," says Leto. (More on that below.)

So Leto has helped his clients and rivals organize a new nonprofit group, the Philadelphia Fund Alliance, with 220 initial members, "to recognize the strength of the industry in the Philadelphia area, and hold "a networking event to bring everyone together for a common cause:" their inaugural gala at the Logan Philadelphia Hotel this Thursday. The Alliance has, so far, raised more than $40,000 for Childrens Hospital of Philadelphia.

Besides Vanguard and Stradley, they've signed up other big local investment managers -- SEI, Delaware, Aberdeen, Franklin Square; law firms -- Morgan Lewis, Drinker Biddle, Pepper Hamilton; the Big 4 U.S. accounting firms; and locally-based fund-accounting specialists Tait Weller and BBD (Briggs, Bunting & Dougherty), as founding sponsors; with more in the works.

Philly and Boston are the old homes of the fund business. Leto says New York firms "only got involved in the 1980s and '90s, when the Wall Street investment banks started creating mutual funds. But Philadelphia has been involved since the '20s."

He means like: Wellington Management Co., the classic mutual-fund developers and stock-picking hired guns, has Philadelphia roots dating to the 1920s, when DuPont Co. CFO John Raskob was among the first mutual fund promoters; longtime Wellington boss Walter Morgan was  a mentor to Vanguard founder John Bogle.

Managers of Philadelphia's Delaware Group, a Wellington contemporary, now part of global investor Macquarie, still picks stocks and bonds from Market St.

BlackRock, the only fund company bigger than Vanguard, was funded by Pennsylvania's own PNC,  guided by the old fund team Francis Nicholson set up at Philadelphia's Provident National.

See also Drexel & Co., Girard, and more...

Leto is made-in-Philly too: He grew up in West Philly's Greenhill Farms enclave off City Line Ave., attended the old Episcopal Academy down the block, and is brother to Bryn Mawr Trust Co. President Francis Leto.