In the world of mutual funds, the Internet seems to be living up to its advance billing as a prime place to do business.
And by all the evidence, its growth will get even more dramatic if widespread misgivings can be resolved about the security of account information and buy-and-sell transactions at sites on the World Wide Web.
Those conclusions emerge from a study conducted late last year by American Century Investments, the Kansas City-based manager of a $62 billion family of funds.
A market research firm made random telephone calls until it found about 750 people who identified themselves as investors in funds (any funds, not just those offered by American Century). Of that number, about 250, or one-third, said they had access to the Internet at home or at work.
That percentage by itself was noteworthy, compared against a similar survey by American Century a year earlier, when only 18 percent of the fund-owning respondents said they were hooked up to the Net.
The percentage of people who reported using the Internet for "financial services" jumped from 32 in 1996 to 44 in 1997.
Among all the on-line fund investors in the survey, 35 percent said they visited a mutual fund Web Site in 1997, up from 28 percent in 1996.
According to the Investment Company Institute, the average fund investor is 44 years old. But among American Century's sample of fund owners who use the Internet, more than half -- 53 percent, to be exact -- were under the age of 40.