The mutual fund industry is starting to embrace some of the Internet's best ideas.
Putnam Investments of Boston has created an advisor-only web site that has customization capabilities similar to those used by other web enterprises.
Companies like Yahoo! of Santa Clara, Calif., Charles Schwab of San Francisco and Scudder Investments of Boston have already been allowing their users to choose what types of content is available on free personal pages that the companies provide on their web sites.
Putnam believes brokers can take advantage of the same technology. It began offering similar capabilities on its Financial Advisors Site, as of Aug. 12.
On My Yahoo! and MySchwab, users can choose certain stocks, indexes and news, including sports and weather, that they want to follow. The Scudder site similarly allows users to follow individually-selected investments and news and even to choose the design of their personal pages including the background.
Customization is generally used to help establish a loyal following. By offering a wide assortment of news and content, web sites are hoping to build trust and ensure that users will visit the site daily to remain informed about what is important to them. Putnam is using those same customization models to help build trust and a following among the brokers that sell its funds.
Putnam's redesigned advisor site allows brokers to track selected Putnam funds and industry indexes. It also gives them the ability to track the accounts of key clients. And, it allows them to choose where this information is displayed on their pages.
"I know we're the first to be doing it at this level," said Mark McKenna, senior vice president at Putnam. "This is, we think, the most sophisticated" personalization offered by a fund company.
Brokers can choose which funds to follow and which performance information they want to receive. They can also choose which clients to list on the site and what account information they want available.
The site also has the ability to notify advisors about their clients' transaction activity by e-mail. Advisors can determine exactly what will set off the alert, whether it is a redemption or exchange of a certain cash amount or a percentage of their client's assets.
Advisors are usually sent the transaction history of their clients by mail but the alert service gets them the information faster, allowing them to respond to their clients' actions sooner, said a Putnam spokesperson.
Even though Putnam funds are sold through brokers, its call centers get over 50,000 calls a day requesting transactions not carried out by brokers, Putnam officials said. The advisor-alert service is not yet available but will be in several weeks, the company said.
The new capabilities were created in-house, according to Putnam.
Other fund companies are likely to follow Putnam and give advisors personal pages. RadNet, an e-commerce company in Wakefield, Mass., has been marketing a product called PortalworkX that allows fund and technology companies to offer personalized Web sites to the salespeople that sell their products. The company has not announced any mutual fund clients.