Participants Prefer Personal Touch

December 28, 2000 ( - Mutual fund investors are increasingly comfortable with online advice, but the personal touch still enjoys an overwhelming advantage according to a new survey of online users.

Nearly half (48%) now say they are comfortable with in person financial advice, up from 38% in last year’s study. Fourteen percent trust advice over the phone, compared with 8% in 1999, while just 9% expressed that confidence in online advice. However, that was nearly twice the 5% a year earlier.

And while nearly half (46%) plan to use the Internet to gather information over the next year, less than 15% plan to conduct transactions online, according to the American Century Investments 2000 Investor Internet Adoption Study.

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The study also found that of those with online access to their 401(k) balance, nearly three-fourths (73%) have accessed that information, compared with just 43% in 1997. A consistent 60% say they are very likely to access that information in the future. Roughly 60% of survey respondents had Internet access to their 401(k) plan, compared with just 36% three years ago.

More Secure

Privacy concerns linger, although the level of concern (39%) was roughly comparable to last year’s findings, and down significantly from the 68% reading just four years ago. At the same time, 36% indicated they had no security/privacy concerns regarding transactions on the Internet.

The most commonly cited concern was someone being able to access their account information (62%), but a close second was the 56% concerned that the company might share/sell their personal information.

Participants have accessed their 401(k) information to:

  • 81% – check general plan information
  • 77% – check personal account information
  • 39% – change allocation of current investments
  • 36% – change contribution amount
  • 30% – change allocation of future investments
  • 22% – check on loans
  • 11% – email the plan provider


Information Station

Most looking for advice on the Internet plan to tap into online education material (53%). Other types of advice likely to be used over the next 12 months were:

  • 39% – online tools that provide mutual fund recommendations
  • 36% – online tools that provide stock recommendations
  • 31% – online tools that evaluate your mutual fund portfolio
  • 24% – online financial calculators
  • 10% – online chat with a customer service representative


– Nevin Adams