PHOENIX, ARIZ. - Investment Company Institute President Paul Schott Stevens announced yesterday that his organization has launched an initiative that would eventually move mutual fund disclosure documents almost exclusively online.
Speaking at the 2006 Mutual Funds and Investment Management Conference, held here through Wednesday, Stevens said the initiative would develop an XBRL, or eXtensible Business Reporting Language, for mutual fund shareholders. The Securities and Exchange Commission has already been working extensively with XBRL, but its efforts have been focused primarily on financial data, which Stevens said isn't awfully investor-friendly.
In short, the SEC's solution would create a search, retrieval and analysis method that would make it easier for fund complexes to report financial data to the regulator, while the ICI's solution would be for investors who want to go online to compare, for instance, the performance of two funds in an apples-to-apples environment.
"Building on the Commission's efforts, we hope to lay the groundwork for providing interactive mutual fund data that will serve the needs of investors and other interested parties," Stevens said. He did not elaborate further, but called it a "substantial undertaking" and encouraged funds to participate in the SEC's XBRL efforts.
"XBRL represents an important step," he continued. "But it must be part of a broader road map that will take us from paper-based disclosure to new and improved approaches."
Stevens added that capitalizing on new technology is only one challenge facing the money management industry today. Further encouraging Americans to save for retirement is an equally important task, he said.
Citing the initial success of the 401(k) plan, which after 25 years in existence now includes more than 47 million participants and represents assets of more than $2 trillion, Stevens said it is time to strengthen that tax-deferred savings option. For starters, he said, more employees must be extended the opportunity to join a 401(k), which could be accomplished first and foremost through automatic enrollment.
"Research shows that automatic enrollment increases participation rates dramatically," Stevens remarked.
Congress could also help, Steven said, by eliminating archaic laws that currently prohibit employers from placing employees in a default investment option. And for its part, the money management industry could focus on developing more innovative, "set-it-and-forget-it" investing products. Finally, he said, Congress should preserve 2001 IRA legislation before the contribution cap falls back to $2,000 annually in 2010.