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Computerized Investing > July/August 2004

Comparison: On-Line Portfolio Managers

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by John Bajkowski

While it possible to put together a portfolio of mutual funds and review your holdings on a quarterly basis, a portfolio constructed of individual stocks requires more constant monitoring. Our product comparison this issue looks at Web-based portfolio managers, also referred to as on-line portfolio trackers. Portfolio data updates, links to news stories, and portfolio event-driven E-mail alerts are part of the standard set of portfolio offerings at these sites. Access to additional analysis modules is also provided. Most on-line portfolio management applications are just a part of a larger, more comprehensive investment-related Web site—a single slice of the pie that is the traditional one-stop, on-line investment center. Most of these sites are free, but some charge subscription fees for advanced functions.

Note that even with the advances made with Web-based tools, on-line monitoring tools do not offer the same capabilities as the top portfolio management software programs. Rather, they are best seen as tools for keeping you abreast of what is happening with your portfolio and notifying you of current events that might affect your investment holdings. Only GainsKeeper goes beyond the portfolio monitoring function located on most Web sites to provide a complete system that tracks all of the transactions in your portfolio to compute the capital gains for tax reporting purposes.

An on-line manager is like a personal assistant, helping to monitor the activity of your portfolio. On-line portfolio managers do not profess to do what software can do. They can track a portfolio quite effectively, but they do not generate reports or calculate returns to the degree that software does. However, they are clearly heading in that direction.

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