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FPA customer service?

I rarely need customer service from any mutual fund but when I do need it basic competence is desirable. I am looking at alternatives to Vanguard, whose customer service gets worse and worse. I want to avoid moving from the frying pan into the fire or even another frying pan. Have people had good experience with FPA customer service?

Comments

  • edited September 19
    I continue to own FPA Queens Road Small Cap Value (formerly FPA Capital Fund) and Crescent Funds since the 90s. I did have a problem with my account regarding a returned statement since it was misdelivered and returned to sender so my account was locked until I could resolve the matter. CSR was helpful in resolving the matter.

    You need to make sure you access your online account fairly routinely; otherwise, your account will be locked.

  • Some financial institutions lock accounts if no logins for 6 mo. No experience with FPA.
  • @TheShadow: thanks. What does CSR stand for in this context?
  • My guess would be Customer Service Rep.
  • And BTW, last week I had a positive interaction with a Vanguard CSR, even got a timely call-back. So they can be capable.
  • Yes! And to my amazement I had positive interactions this morning with *two* Vanguard "CSR's and only a 4 minute wait for call back. It would be a relief if this is the new standard at Vanguard because I have no dissatisfaction with the fund managers.
    sfnative said:

    And BTW, last week I had a positive interaction with a Vanguard CSR, even got a timely call-back. So they can be capable.

  • Let me add , VG's new & improved platform is also a step up as I see it.
  • CSR = Customer Service Representative
  • FWIW Have been investing with VG for 37 years and only have had a few minor issues/misunderstandings about what I needed. In fact, a few months ago they listed a fund family I argued for, and I have now owned one of their products, which I'll profile this fall.
  • After today's conversations with Vanguard CSR-s I will likely remain with Vanguard. But I'm still curious about FPA. I still would like to know more about their customer service. Of course if there are no problems an investor has no need of customer service. Is that the case with FPA? Thanks!
  • edited September 20
    Not sure what FPA customer service you are seeking that their online site cannot provide?
  • Sven said:

    Not sure what FPA customer service you are seeking that their online site cannot provide?

    Websites do not always work. There are so many instances where interaction with a human being is necessary. For instance, through no fault of my own I have been occasionally locked out of a website. Only a phone call to a human can remedy this. That's what the website itself says.

    Or, a company with good customer service answers the phone when it rings. Or when a caller is prompted to leave a call back number a company with good customer service actually does phone back. Some do not.

    Another example: a mutual fund website cannot help with redemption of shares via telephone, which is an option in various places.

    The most immediate example of what a website cannot do is repair itself.
    Vanguard had been in touch about converting a self-managed mutual fund account to a brokerage account. Do it via the website they said. It didn't work. I phoned. The CSR could not get it to work either. He'd call back he said. He did not. I phoned days later, was promised a call back. They did not call. At last yesterday I got a CSR on the phone who diagnosed the cause of the problem and provided what is probably a solution. Such events can only be dealt with by living people. In my original post I was inquiring if FPA customer service is good or not.
  • While I won't say that there's never any need for human intervention, ISTM you are stretching the point in raising the task of fund redemptions.

    Of course "phone" redemptions can't be done via the web interface, but redemptions can. At least unless there's a specific type of redemption that needs human help. (That's a theoretical possibility; I don't know of a specific example.)

    One could also say that "a mutual fund website cannot help with" requesting a prospectus "via telephone, which is an option in various places." The website can't help with a phone request, but it can help with a request.

    OTOH, in order to change cost basis from average cost to any other, the law requires written instructions. That "writing" can be done via a website but not by phone. (See, e.g. T. Rowe Price's statement of IRS requirement; click on mutual funds.)
  • edited September 21
    In the past 6 months I’ve had to phone Fido only 2 or 3 times. (d) So their website is incredibly sophisticated and able to anticipate 90%+ of your needs. But phone support is very good too. Today the Fido phone reps set a new record. Their website system flagged a sell order of a fund I thought should be fee-waived. The woman who picked up promptly answered my query & approved the pending sale in approximately 60 seconds. And was nice about it. Wow!

    Back in my “dark” days at TRP I was often “hanging” on hold for 15-30 minutes. And they got the problem solved correctly roughly 40% of the time. 400 is a good average if you’re batting in the majors, but not for client service reps.

    Sounds like @Ben is frustrated at FPA . I’m a bit confused because he appears to be dealing with one particular fund house here and perhaps looking to move to a different one. Not a bad plan. However, IMHO a full service brokerage is a lot nicer.

    PS - Can’t help wondering if TRP’s client service (disservice) has anything to do with their stock’s dismal performance this year, compared against just about any other of their peers. I’ll note than a lot of their formerly stalwart funds have also suffered - for whatever reason.
  • I'm curious regarding investors who buy directly from fund families in 2022 like this one: How much does security concern you? How do you feel about sharing your social security number and birth date with yet another financial institution and entrusting your assets with them? Do you worry about the institution getting hacked or that there could be internal security risks?
  • hank said:



    Sounds like @Ben is frustrated at FPA . I’m a bit confused because he appears to be dealing with one particular fund house here and perhaps looking to move to a different one.

    I was frustrated at Vanguard, not at FPA. I have had no dealings with FPA. I was contemplating investing in a fund or two there. I was making inquiries, nothing more. I seem to have confused and even irritated a few people by what I intended to be nothing more than a friendly attempt to gather information. If so, I apologize. I'm surprised, even puzzled, but I certainly apologize.

    <</i>

  • I'm curious regarding investors who buy directly from fund families in 2022 like this one: How much does security concern you? How do you feel about sharing your social security number and birth date with yet another financial institution and entrusting your assets with them? Do you worry about the institution getting hacked or that there could be internal security risks?

    I have not worried about these things. Perhaps I should worry, but so far there have been no security problems that I am aware of. My few interactions with brokerages have been disappointing at best. They mishandled things, put money in the wrong place, got the numbers wrong, charged inappropriate fees, and through these actions I lost money because of the blundering of the brokerages. All these things were corrected but it took me time and effort to get that to happen. By contrast most of my direct interactions with funds and fund families have been excellent. I've had direct email exchanges with the fund managers themselves as well as with customer service people. I've had productive phone talks with the latter. I even got a hand-written letter from one manager. All of this had made investing a personal pleasure. In addition I've always been a hands-on, DIY kind of guy. I've done my own research before investing. It's a personal characteristic, whether it is flaw or a virtue I cannot say.
    It's timely that you ask why people invest directly rather than through a brokerage. I was contemplating asking the reverse question: why so many posters at MFO use a brokerage when it is (usually) so quick and easy to deal with the fund (families) directly. Now I have one answer: security. This is certainly a point worth contemplating.


  • edited September 21
    Most of my holdings are with the fund families/transfer agent. For example, a newly opened/closed fund may be restricted with a brokerage, but not with the family that opened/closed the fund.
  • TheShadow said:

    Most of my holdings are with the fund families/transfer agent. For example, a newly opened/closed fund may be restricted with a brokerage, but not with the family that opened/closed the fund.

    Yes, that's another good reason. Over the years I was able to buy shares directly in several funds under exactly those circumstances.

  • edited September 21
    I can only think of a handful of funds perhaps worth buying directly, and even those I question if it's worth the trouble and the security risks. If you consider how much wealth the largest tech companies have, you have to imagine that they are the biggest draw for the best IT and tech security employees in the world. Where does that leave the small boutique fund family? I imagine some outsource the security of their accounts, but it's often an unknown. I have met or heard of accounts of IT folks at small businesses in recent years. I have been less than impressed. Is that guy who has trouble getting your printer to work also the one now supposed to protect your info? Perhaps I'm being overly paranoid. Then again there are certain large financial firms that have had tech problems lately, too. Meh.
  • msf
    edited September 21
    I've done that and then transferred the shares to a brokerage for convenience. I have seen soft closes where the fund says that shares purchased directly in a new account cannot be transferred for some period of time. But even then, the time limit does expire.

    OTOH, Janus makes its cheaper D shares available only through direct investment. That's a little different from the situation described above. The shares weren't closed at intermediaries - they were never offered through those channels.
    Only Class D Shares (the “Shares”) are offered by this Prospectus. The Shares are offered directly through the Janus Henderson funds to eligible investors by calling 1-800-525-3713 or at janushenderson.com/individual. The Shares are not offered through financial intermediaries.
    Janus Value Funds Prospectus

    For several years, Janus only allowed legacy investors - those who already had a direct account with Janus - to invest in class D shares. A couple of years ago it reopened direct investing to new customers. An interesting example of a fund family where you might want to invest directly (for lower cost) but couldn't.
    https://ir.janushenderson.com/news-events/press-releases/news-details/2020/Janus-Henderson-Investors-to-Reopen-U.S.-Direct-Business-Channel-to-New-Investors/default.aspx
  • edited September 21
    Sorry. Wasn’t following the thread as carefully as should have. Your original question is perfectly clear. Mixaposition in my head.
  • hank said:

    Sorry. Wasn’t following the thread as carefully as should have. Your original question is perfectly clear. Mixaposition in my head.

    No problem at all.:-)
  • I can only think of a handful of funds perhaps worth buying directly, and even those I question if it's worth the trouble and the security risks.

    I get the part about security risks. "Not worth the trouble" is puzzling. What trouble? Investing directly is quick and easy. Brokerages on the other hand have been a hassle to deal with. And bypassing a brokerage can mean bypassing fees.

  • I chose to consolidate my holdings at a brokerage (Fidelity) for simplicity. I'm 80 and when I go, I'd rather not leave a mix of financial institutions for my executor to deal with.
    (Not that I want this to happen soon!!)

    My Dad passed away six years ago and I was the executor. Most of his investments consisted of stocks in a couple of TD Ameritrade accounts. But there were a few smaller bits. Each place he used was another place to figure out and contact, provide death certificates and instructions, etc. And always by mail.
    I don't want to leave that mess behind.

    My wife and I do have several accounts at Fidelity: Individual, joint, my IRA, several Roth IRAs. Most each contains a mix of mutual funds, ETFs and individual stocks. But they are all under one roof.

    As msf noted, Janus has D shares only available directly with them. When I consolidated at Fidelity, the Fidelity folks handled the transfer from Janus. We wound up with a different class of shares (and probably a slightly higher expense ratio).

    The CSRs at Fidelity are uniformly knowledgeable and helpful. For instance, when interest rates started going up in the Spring, I decided I'd better pay closer to attention to the Core account/MMF in each of our accounts. The random CSR I reached on the phone explained quickly and simply the differences and restrictions between FZDXX and SPAXX.

    There are no fees to maintain these accounts.

    I had never thought about the possibility that a big operation like Fidelity might have better security than a smaller investment house, but as Lewis Braham says, it seems likely. I access our accounts from my desktop computer at home (an iMac); when I am logging on, they must text a code to my cellphone which I enter. This process works very quickly and smoothly (and it makes me feel much more secure).
    I tried using a Fidelity app on my iPhone, but I had to log on to the Internet though my browser anyhow, so I took off the app. Every once in a while I log on to check something, but not to do anything.

    Anyhow, I'm very satisfied with Fidelity (and think my heirs will be also).
    David
  • +1 Perfectly sums up why I've used Fidelity as my main brokerage since 1993 !
  • I've also had many good experiences with Fidelity customer service.
  • edited September 22
    As dstone42 stated, having a brokerage account for estate purposes is definitely a benefit so your heirs do not have to spend time trying to locate everything.
  • edited September 22
    It's kind of shocking that if companies of Uber's size can get hacked by an 18-year-old--https://techcrunch.com/2022/09/19/how-to-fix-another-uber-breach/--that investors aren't more concerned about security issues. I agree regarding the convenience of not getting multiple statements from each boutique fund company, multiple tax forms, multiple estate issues to resolve, multiple application forms to fill out, multiple everything to link and expose to a potential breach. But I also think having everything at one institution may not be wise either. Some sort of Goldilocks balance is nice. But perhaps I've watched too much Mr. Robot.
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