Edward Jones is introducing a new account statement option next month, allowing clients to decide the level of complexity and financial detail contained in their statements. Regardless of net worth or investment activity, each of the company's 1.5 million customers can elect to receive their monthly statements in one of three newly available formats: "at-a-glance," "preferred" or "in-depth."
Although brokers have decided which type of statement each individual client received in January, all clients will be asked to re-evaluate their broker's selection after the first quarter and switch to another option if they prefer, according to Dan Burkhardt, general partner in charge of the new account statement project for Edward Jones. "Asking a million-and-a-half customers to make a choice right away wouldn't make us very popular with the sales force," he says.
The new account statements incorporate suggestions that were elicited during focus group meetings conducted in early 1998 in Charlotte, N.C.; Tampa, Fla.; and Dallas with existing Edward Jones clients and with clients from other firms, including Merrill Lynch, Prudential, Charles Schwab and PaineWebber, Burkhardt says. The research produced a "diverse reaction to the level of detail in our current statement," he says, with some wanting a much less sophisticated statement, and others saying "the statements were almost insulting, they were so simplistic." Burkhardt estimates about three-quarters of Edward Jones clients will select the preferred statement--the middle option.
To complete the project, Jones hired 12 additional technicians last summer, in addition to a large contingency already assigned to the project, Burkhardt adds. "Given the uniqueness of the project, we think it is well worth the investment." Edward Jones says it is the only national firm to offer a choice in monthly account statements.
The firm unveiled the three new statement templates during a managing partner's conference at company headquarters in St. Louis this past October, a gathering of the company's top 6% producing brokers. David Brouwer, an investment rep with Edward Jones in Fort Payne, Ala., who attended the meeting, says the only negative was that the color of the account statements could confuse some clients because it resembles the greenish color of 1099 tax statements mailed in January. He says the company has since taken steps to distinguish the two documents from each other.
Brouwer also complained that the new statements, like the old versions, are printed on both sides. But despite these minor concerns, Brouwer says he's "tickled" about the new statements, especially when he compares them to statements from other firms.
Brokers have also asked to have statements match what they pull up on their computer screens. "In the past, if the client had a question about line five on page three of the statement, what I was looking at on the computer screen might be line seven on page five," Brouwer says. "Now we have the ability to pull up exactly what the client is looking at."
Also, the firm's new statements include a one-page "relationship synopsis" summarizing all of the business a client conducts with Edward Jones, divided into four sections: investment accounts, trust services, insurance, and loans and credit, with a one-line description of the client's activity in each area, according to Burkhardt. All statements also provide an asset allocation graph comparing the customer's portfolio to Jones' recommended mix.