The check-clearing business is changing, although of course electronic and paper systems will continue to co-exist. But that change is being fostered as much by the local bank on the corner as the big bank downtown.
Donald G. Ogilvie, President & CEO
American Bankers Assn.
I was thrilled to calculate that the number of checks I have issued has dropped from 193 in 1999 to 42 in 2003. Apart from an estimated $60 I have saved on postage and stationery, I have the convenience of paying most of my bills even while visiting my parents in India. What appalls me is that many of my friends, even those in the information-technology industry, are still hesitant to make purchases or payments over the Net, because of identity-theft concerns.
Austin, Tex. I was disappointed in your article on Ken Fisher, "Hype from a financial guru?" (Finance, May 10). Kenneth L. Fisher's approach to separate accounts appears admirable, and his performance returns in the past decade appear competitive with his brethren. Unlike mutual funds, separate-account managers wrestle with the balance between finding enough securities to meet their needs for style and diversification while at the same time monitoring asset allocation and restrictions. Separate accounts offer investors the most transparent investment service currently available.
The enigma of separate accounts is the inability of the "experts" to grasp the simplicity and extraordinary value proposition. Quite simply, each account is customized at the tax-lot security level. Each investor may hold relatively similar stocks in the portfolio, but each and every stock purchase price will vary. Simple, but compelling.
I, too, am a former client of Ken Fisher. I too was told that my portfolio was "mine," and I signed on after I retired. I was promised that this was a firm that did not go for the "home run," just steady careful progress. That was what I wanted.
In 2000 we were told that there were several events and indicators that would need to be met before we again became fully invested in the market. Then, within a week during May, 2002, we became totally reinvested in the stock market. The move was never explained and was contrary to the promises to only move after the criteria were met, and then with care. At the annual meeting in January, 2003, there still was no explanation. When I again asked for a more conservative portfolio, I was ignored.
It took me some time to figure what to do and where to go, but I left Ken Fisher.
Mr. Fisher ran my high-six-figure retirement "customized portfolio" from late 1999 until the end of 2002, equally divided between a taxable and a nontaxable account. Until May, 2002, Fisher produced moderately satisfactory returns with excellent protection of principle, as I had requested. From May through September, 2002, Fisher and his team of investment implementers actively purchased over 96 assorted positions, some as small as 25 shares, with an overlap of the same positions in both portfolios. In addition to his fees, the purchase and sale of these positions cost over $3,000 in broker's commissions. The loss during this period was almost 20% of capital. Fisher and his team ignored my alarm, even when I specifically called with noted documentation. When I withdrew from Fisher Investments, I wish that I had thought to attempt recovery, as H. Frank Rogers did.
Howard L. Gelin
West Hartford, Conn. While I agree with the premise of "The wise way to stem illegal immigration" (through an increase in legal immigration), I object to a remark about certain jobs not being wanted by Americans (Economic Viewpoint, Apr. 26). There is nothing inherently "unworthy" about gardening or ditch-digging or hotel-maid or busboy jobs. Traditionally, such service jobs were the recourse of unskilled and untrained American laborers and formed an income foundation for the lower middle class. Work, any work, is honorable. There is no job that is "not good enough" to be performed by an American. But it ought to pay better to work in one of those jobs than to be on some form of social support such as welfare or whatever. It doesn't, and that's a problem.