6 must-have investor services

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An increasing number of investors are dissatisfied with what has been standard service from many online investment companies. Low fees and a few online analytical tools are no longer compelling reasons for investors to turn over their nest eggs, according to a survey by market research firm J.D. Power.

If you’re managing your own retirement investments, this is probably no surprise to you. Leading investment companies have been ramping up their services in response to the growing expectations from current and future customers. Investors are benefiting from the improvements.

Two firms scored J.D. Power’s highest investor satisfaction ratings: Scottrade and Vanguard. Four were considered “better than most”: Charles Schwab & Co., TD Ameritrade, E*Trade and T. Rowe Price.

The survey listed six services that investors value the most — in the order they value them. If your current investment company isn’t offering these things, you might want to take a look at its competitors. Your retirement planning could benefit greatly.

  1. Personal interaction. About 61 percent of investors want to talk to a representative on the phone, the survey reported. “Investors want to be connected and have a relationship with their adviser,” says Craig Martin, director of wealth management practice at J.D. Power. “There is information everywhere. Data alone isn’t helpful. Investors want personal help.”
  2. Readily available account information. If all you’re getting is a monthly statement, you’re not being well served. Martin says older investors are using online information just as much as younger investors. “People want account information on the fly, when they need it,” he says.
  3. Low trading charges and fees. Martin says the industry went through a period when technology took over and prices fell. Today, prices are going higher, but service is improving along with the increase. “If the advice saves you from making a bad decision, paying a little more for a trade is still a bargain,” he says.
  4. Lots of investment offerings. Martin doesn’t think an investment company has to offer every single option, but the possibilities should meet all your needs.
  5. Plenty of sources of information. Data is widely available. Any online investment site should provide access to a comprehensive range of it, Martin says.
  6. Quick resolution of problems. “If a company can’t take care of problems quickly, that’s a core issue,” he says.