Interactive investor software unveiled

BANKING & FINANCE

January 14, 1994|By David Conn | David Conn,Staff Writer

Futurists look forward to the day -- not too far off -- when investors can bypass the stock exchanges, trade on their own and access all the investment information they need via computer.

Baltimore Bancorp, parent of the Bank of Baltimore, isn't quite ready for that day yet. But its discount brokerage subsidiary, Baltimore Bancorp Investment Services, next week will launch a service that may start to bridge the knowledge gap between the individual investor and the Wall Street brokerage house.

Called ASSIST, the interactive computer software will be available starting Tuesday at 10 of the brokerage's branches around the state, including downtown. ASSIST was developed by SEI Corp., a company in Wayne, Pa., that hopes to use the program to market its Provantage mutual funds through banks.

ASSIST will allow the user to work out a range of investment planning decisions, from building a retirement nest egg to saving for a college education. The program will then recommend alternatives from among a universe of funds and other investments, not just Provantage funds.

There are other financial-planning programs, including a popular package developed by T. Rowe Price Associates Inc. But Susan Poller-Newman, a vice president of Baltimore Bancorp Investment Services who is directing the program, says ASSIST is unlike most other planning software in that "it's incredibly visual, easy to conceptualize. There's not a lot of numbers."

The ASSIST service is free, both to bank customers and noncustomers. A consultant with a laptop may be available to make house calls.

The brokerage also will hold a drawing to award a $1,000 brokerage account to the winner of an essay contest (with a deadline of March 31). Entrants must state "Why I need ASSISTance."

But don't spend too much time on grammar, spelling and style: The drawing will be random.

Independent newsletter to focus on T. Rowe Price

You know you've really made it in the mutual fund business when they put out a newsletter on you.

Baltimore's own T. Rowe Price Associates Inc. joined its colleagues Fidelity Investments and the Vanguard Group in that rarefied atmosphere this month. An organization in Watertown, Mass., called Fund Family Shareholders Association launched the Independent T. Rowe Price Adviser.

The eight-page independent monthly newsletter will give T. Rowe devotees a variety of performance indicators,asset-allocation tips and other mutual fund investment advice, all focused on the 40-plus T. Rowe Price funds.

The letter will include model mutual fund portfolios, for investors interested in growth, income, or growth and income.

The Fund Family Shareholders Association has published the Independent Vanguard Adviser for the past three years or so. And there are already a handful of Fidelity newsletters. So the next obvious choice was T. Rowe, according to editor Clint Willis, a former financial writer and columnist for Money magazine. The price of the newsletter is $139 a year.

"By and large, T. Rowe Price has at least one good fund in every asset category that you would want to have represented in your portfolio," Mr. Willis said.

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