Putnam Investments rolled out a paperless program to get mutual fund statements and investment information to clients as soon as possible.
In early April financial advisers, banks, brokers, and retirement plan sponsors received copies of their clients' statements on CD-ROM. The move saved the Boston-based mutual fund from mailing 4.8 million pages of paper.
In addition, Putnam has been offering information on daily and historical activities of accounts through a site on the World Wide Web since September. Using passwords, money managers, bankers, retirement plan sponsors, and shareholders can glean and download account information.
The program is a display of the lengths investment companies are now going to give clients what they want: readily available, customized information.
"We really believe in two years or so, people are going to go with the Internet (as opposed to the telephone) whether they are in the airport or home sick," said Gavan A. Taylor, chief information officer of Putnam Investor Services.
The Securities and Exchange Commission allows for investment account information to be sent electronically as long as it is "substantially equivalent" to what people receive on paper. Clients who receive information electronically can request a hard copy at any time.
At some firms, electronic delivery of information to customers and their brokers, financial planners, bankers, 401(k) plan sponsors, and investment advisers has become a way of life.
Charles Schwab & Co. has offered electronic links for financial advisers to download client account information since 1989. Retirement plan sponsors and participants can also get account information from a Web site. Using Schwab software, retail investors can dial in to get information flashed back to them. They still get monthly statements in the mail.
"Schwab was cutting edge several years ago in providing that kind of service," said Don Trone, executive vice president of Callan Associates, an investment management consulting firm.
"Their success is forcing complexes like Putnam to provide a comparable service," he added.
Similar programs are in the works at other investment firms including Scudder, Stevens & Clark; Oppenheimer Funds Inc.; and Dreyfus Corp., a subsidiary of Mellon Bank Corp.