June 5, 2000
The Internet may be a place to conduct securities transactions at low cost but it does not appear to be a popular choice for investors who are seeking advice about financial matters, according to a new survey conducted for Putnam Investments of Boston.
Only two percent of those surveyed went to an Internet website for investment advice, according to a survey that Neuwirth Research of New York conducted for Putnam. That two percent figure compared with 47 percent of those surveyed who sought out a broker or financial planner when looking for advice, Neuwirth found.
The survey "really did affirm that consumers want personalized investment advice," said Thomas Lucey, senior managing director for Putnam. "It affirmed that this (advice) channel is alive and well and healthy."
Neuwirth interviewed approximately 1,000 people by telephone in March who had sought professional advice in the past 12 months. Lucey declined to say what Putnam paid for the survey. Putnam made the results of the study public May 31. Putnam intends to use the results to help advisors market their own services, Lucey said.
Putnam sells its funds through 200,000 intermediaries. It is the fourth-largest firm in the mutual fund industry, with approximately $246 billion in mutual fund assets under management as of April 30, according to Financial Research Corp. of Boston, a fund tracking and consulting firm.
The survey found that brokers and advisors were by far the most popular choice as providers of investment advice. Forty-seven percent of those surveyed identified brokers and planners as the sources from which they sought financial advice. Nine percent of those surveyed sought advice from certified public accountants and another five percent sought financial advice from lawyers.
Family and friends also played a key role in assisting in investment decisions, according to the survey. Sixteen percent of those surveyed said they sought advice from family or friends. The survey concluded that despite the Internet and the existence of self-help books, people tend to seek advice from an individual, usually a professional.
The survey is consistent with data on channels of mutual fund sales. Only 16 percent of mutual fund shareholders reported that they purchased funds directly from a fund company or discount broker/dealer, the Investment Company Institute reported last year.
The Putnam survey results, however, are not surprising given the relative dearth of automated investment advice now available online, said Jaime Punishill, senior analyst of Forrester Research of Cambridge, Mass., an independent research firm. A Forrester survey of 50 financial services firms in February found that only about one-third currently are offering online automated investment advice.
Forrester predicted that more firms would be offering automated online advice in the next five years. Sixteen million U.S. households will get investment advice online by 2005, up from about 1.8 million households by Dec. 31, Forrester estimates.
But the proliferation of online advice does not mean the end of financial advisors, according to Forrester. The firm predicted in its report that the majority of those who receive automated advice will want a human to validate that advice. Advisors will become valued because of their knowledge and the emotional support that they provide to investors, Forrester predicted.