What level of service can you expect from a mutual fund? What is the optimum level of service? With this question comes the reality that when you are running money for millions of people, service isn't much of an option. All you can do is try to automate the process as best as possible, a la
, which at least knows who you are by your Social Security number.
But let me at least give you a glimpse of what could be offered. It is the kind of service that you would get from a hedge fund. Now, I know, these firms, which are often just mills, can't offer boutique service. Nevertheless, let me at least tell you what you can aspire to have and let you deal with whether it should matter.
First of all, you have to be able to know what you own. Someone calls my fund and wants my top 10 holdings, I can't tell him, "Take a hike." Nor can I tell him, "Look, pal, I don't give out that information." I tell them everything, up to the minute. That's part of what he deserves. Remember my mantra: It is your money.
If you can't do that level of service, at least offer a recording, or do a conference call with investors, on a listen-only mode, that will tell them what you own and what you are up to. You should try to offer a rough approximation of what the tax bill should be, giving investors some idea of what awaits them come April.
And you should have a manager who is willing to speak to investors after the market is closed. We do. They could, too. Is it too much to ask? I am sure it is these days, but we do it out of pure courtesy. Does it hurt our profitability? We don't think that way. It is your money. You have every right to expect better service than you get.
An event you won't want to miss: James J. Cramer -- Live in New York City on Aug. 7, 2000.
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James J. Cramer is manager of a hedge fund and co-founder of TheStreet.com. At time of publication, his fund had no positions in any stocks mentioned. His fund often buys and sells securities that are the subject of his columns, both before and after the columns are published, and the positions that his fund takes may change at any time. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks. Cramer's writings provide insights into the dynamics of money management and are not a solicitation for transactions. While he cannot provide investment advice or recommendations, he invites you to comment on his column at