Price adds two online services Mutual fund, 401(k) clients can monitor, revise more easily

July 24, 1996|By Bill Atkinson | Bill Atkinson,SUN STAFF

T. Rowe Price Associates Inc. has introduced two computer services that not only give customers the ability to check their balances in mutual funds and retirement accounts from their homes or offices, but make online trades and change the mix of their 401(k) accounts.

The Baltimore-based company believes it is the first mutual fund firm to offer the service to 401(k) customers.

"From a competitive standpoint, you have to offer services customers want," said Steven Norwitz, a spokesman for the company. "Investors have come to expect the ability to conduct business conveniently and easily whenever they want."

Price's OnLine Access service lets customers who have 401(k) plans administered by the company dial a toll-free phone number and check their account balances, loan information and fund performance. They also can shift money from one mutual fund to another, and increase or decrease the amount they contribute to the plan.

"T. Rowe is probably the most customer-friendly of all of the mutual fund companies," said Bruce R. Brewington, an analyst with Putnam Lovell & Thornton Inc. in San Francisco. "They are on the leading edge of investor education; they have a great respect for their shareholders."

Norwitz said customers began using the service about three weeks ago. The company, which manages $82 billion in total assets, believes online access will be a hit with its customers because about two-thirds of them own personal computers. The company serves about 1 million households.

Typically, 401(k) participants are allowed to make a limited number of changes in their retirement accounts each year. Price allows for six a year, but customers should be able to make additional changes, although they will be monitored, Norwitz said.

"If you are using the service to time the market, people will be asked not to do it," he said.

"If they want to make a change because of personal or family circumstances, that is the way the service is suppose to be used," Norwitz said.

A second service, T. Rowe Price OnLine, allows customers to track and manage their accounts, including mutual funds, discount brokerage, and small retirement plan accounts.

Customers not only can review account balances but sell and exchange shares, check current fund prices, get up-to-the minute stock quotes, and send messages through their computer to Price's Web site.

Price offered a similar, but more limited, service called PC*Access in 1993.

The new services will work on IBM-compatible and Macintosh computers. The software costs $15, and it includes Netscape Navigator, which allows customers to move from one place to another on the World Wide Web.

Initially, the services will be offered on a restricted line until Price becomes confident that trades can be made securely on the Internet.

"We think that is coming probably in the next six months," Norwitz said.

Pub Date: 7/24/96

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