In an effort to improve online interaction with consumers, the website of Pioneer Investment Management of Boston is offering "Financial CyberGuides" which, much like real advisors, listen and respond to investors' questions.

But, these intermediaries are computer-generated facsimiles of the real thing. And although the cartoon-like figures speak and answer questions about basic investment topics, they pose no competitive threat to Pioneer's existing intermediary channels because the computer-generated reps will always steer potential investors to an intermediary, according to the company.

Pioneer's site will have three "CyberGuides." "Janet" and "Logan" can be found on the firm's retail-oriented website while "Keith" is available to financial intermediaries on a separate website. All of the guides use conversational English and will help investors navigate Pioneer's site and learn about working with a financial intermediary. For instance, "Logan" tutors investors in preparation for their first meeting with a financial professional, according to the company. "Keith" can provide information and data on products, according to the company.

"Our users now have an intuitive, engaging, and easy way to interact with Pioneer online and get the information they need quickly and efficiently," said Iang Jeon, managing director of Pioneer's electronic commerce group, in a statement.

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