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Online Investors Want Human Touch

The Internet is good for transactions but it alone is not enough to serve the needs of mutual fund investors, according to a survey by Charles Schwab & Co. of San Francisco.

A survey of 519 Schwab mutual fund customers found that while 93 percent of those questioned preferred to place their mutual fund trades online, 72 percent said they wanted to speak to a branch office or telephone representative when seeking help or advice. The survey was conducted by electronic mail in October. The results were announced last month.

The survey also showed that more than 90 percent of the time, investors preferred to use the Internet for transactions, research, quotes and checking account balances. Nevertheless, 56 percent of those surveyed said that having access to multiple channels for service was very important.

"While the Internet is clearly a powerful and increasingly important investment channel, these findings also indicate that there are times when investors want to be able to talk to someone and get objective help and advice on investment decisions," said Jeff Lyons, executive vice president of mutual funds for Schwab, in a statement.