My wife walked into the office carrying the mail and demanding an answer. "Did you know that one of our mutual funds just changed managers?" I didn't know, so I took the mail from her, sneaked a peak at the open paperwork and started laughing.
My wife walked into the office carrying the mail and demanding an answer.
“Did you know that one of our mutual funds just changed managers?”
I didn’t know, so I took the mail from her, sneaked a peak at the open paperwork and started laughing.
The fund firm that handles my Roth Individual Retirement Account was changing the fund administrator, accountant and transfer agent. My wife had mistakenly assumed that “administrator” and “manager” must be the same thing.
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They’re not, and though a change in the firms handling a fund’s backroom operations is no reason for alarm — especially when compared to a change in money managers — it is worth noting. Moreover, when a fund makes changes to its backroom, it means you should make changes in your files.
Back-office changes are routine and common in the fund world, particularly for smaller fund firms looking to negotiate better deals for the basic services they need to run a fund. Few people would ever consider a change in backroom functionaries as a big deal, let alone something to worry about.
Surprisingly, funds typically are not required to tell you when they change managers — most only notify shareholders in their next regularly scheduled report — but must send notice when the transfer agent and other backroom functions change.
As twisted as that seems — with the important news being hidden and the inconsequential stuff requiring the special mailing — it does highlight why an investor can’t ignore a change in functionaries completely.
An investor can stay on in a fund no matter who is in charge, but could have problems making deposits or calling in redemptions if they don’t have current information on the transfer agent.
The fund’s transfer agent — typically listed in the back of the semiannual report — is the record keeper, processing purchases and redemptions, tracking what you own, issuing statements, calculating tax information and, generally, handling anything to do with your personal account.
The biggest fund firms act as their own transfer agent, rather than farming out the administrative work. But management companies want transfer agents who can do the job effectively and efficiently, and they will make changes when it helps them hold the line or even lower fund expenses, or when it allows them to offer more services for the same money.
Management does not need your approval to change transfer agents, but they do need to let you in on the switch because it typically means a different address for submitting your deposits, and it may mean different phone numbers to call for information.
Unlike a management change that puts the fund on your “watch list” until new leadership can prove itself, you can toss out the notice of changes in the backroom.
Chuck Jaffe is senior columnist at MarketWatch. He can be reached at email@example.com or Box 70, Cohasset, MA 02025-0070.