Mutual Funds: There's an App for That

Vanguard is set to release an application for the iPhone.

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Apple has prided itself on claiming that its iPhones have "an app for just about anything." And with a new application from Vanguard, consumers can now add mutual funds to the list. The app, which could come out in the next few months, is expected to make Vanguard the first mutual fund company to get real estate on iPhones.

Users who download the app will be able to access their Vanguard accounts, view their transaction history for the past seven days, read market news, listen to podcasts, and watch videos. "The iPhone app is the continuation of our mobile computing strategy," says Vanguard spokesperson Linda Wolohan. "The iPhone was a natural place to start because of the iPhone's prominence in the marketplace."

This strategy to tap into the mobile market has taken hold lately in the financial industry. Vanguard and Fidelity both, for example, have cellphone-friendly websites, and Bank of America also has an iPhone app. "Because more investors are expected to use mobile devices in the future, we feel it is important to build our mobile functionality," says Wolohan.

But even increased accessibility has its potential pitfalls. Specifically, consumers' demand for constant updates can be at odds with the conventional advice to hunker down with investments and not get spooked by fleeting trends. In that sense, Adam Bold, the founder of the Mutual Fund Store, an investment management firm with more than 65 U.S. locations, calls the app a sign of the times. "It's sort of like a gun in that the device itself isn't evil—it's what you do with it," he says.

"If somebody is going to satisfy their curiosity from time to time or add more money to their account—those kinds of things—then I think it's perfectly fine. If, on the other hand, they're going to try to use it to day-trade their Vanguard accounts, then that would be bad," he continues. "Then they could be shooting themselves in the foot."