We set out to do something we thought would be very, very simple: verify the 6.64% annual return in the current (January, 2015) Fidelity shareholders update, just received in the mail.
The numbers in my personal spreadsheet didn’t add up, so I thought I’d “dig a little deeper.” To put it mildly, I was surprised that Fidelity customer assistance couldn’t do it either.
Here are the numbers:
%age return, i.e. 2014 close + dist/2013 close, or (24.93+2.066)/25.41
Reported return in Fidelity lit.
Obviously, there was something wrong in my math, and surely Fidelity could easily straighten me out, and “reconcile” the account.
Turns out not. I was gobsmacked. While we are sorting this out, (and the possibility exists that I am still just “missing something” that I should be able to spot but can’t; if you can see it, please post a response) here is the full transcript of our “talk”:
System: Thank you for contacting Fidelity Investments. All interactions are subject to recordkeeping and monitoring. Chat representatives of Fidelity Brokerage Services LLC, Member NYSE, SIPC are unable to accept any trading requests to buy, sell or exchange securities, nor do they provide legal, tax or investment advice.
ME: Initial Question/Comment: Question: reading your current shareholder update. For FWWFX, stating a gain of 6.64% from Oct 31 2103 to same date 2014. I reviewed, got decline in those dates from 25.41 to 24.93. Loss of 1.9% or so. Please advise.
System: FIDELITY REPRESENTATIVE has joined this session!
System: Connected. Your Reference Number for this chat is 5750466.
FIDELITY REPRESENTATIVE: Hello, thank you for contacting us, John. How are you today?
ME: Good, thanks.
FIDELITY REPRESENTATIVE: I'm glad to hear you're well. I've not reviewed that fund, but are your calculations taking into account capital gains distributions and dividends paid out during that time?
ME: Prices taken straight off yahoo. Are distributions :"separate"?
ME: I guess they might be.
ME: How much were dist. in that period, then, we'll re do the math.
FIDELITY REPRESENTATIVE: Yes. The historical prices reported do not include any distributions, which are subtracted from the value of the fund upon distribution, so it's possible that the value of the fund may be lower while still technically calculated with a gain.
FIDELITY REPRESENTATIVE: You can review the distribution history here:
FIDELITY REPRESENTATIVE: The performance figures reported on Fidelity.com account for all distributions in addition to market movement during the periods listed.
ME: I now get 6.2%
ME: Still off by .44%. Can you resolve?
ME: I added 24.93 + .087+ 1.979 to get 26.996
ME: Div by 24.93 Oct 31 2014 price
FIDELITY REPRESENTATIVE: I'm afraid I cannot. I'm not an analyst and I'm not familiar with the exactly calculations are figured. It's possible that the fund's expenses are being figured as well.
ME: k tx
FIDELITY REPRESENTATIVE: I can assure you that the data presented on Fidelity.com is provided by properly licensed analysts and is correct.
ME: Can you have someone email me the manner in which the 6.64% FWWFX return was calc, e.g. an analyst?
FIDELITY REPRESENTATIVE: Our analysts are not able to communicate directly with clients.
ME: A shareholder should be able to see how the return was calculated.
ME: You are asking me to take this on faith.
ME: We are .44% off.
ME: No one there can tell me?
ME: How you figured the return on one of your major funds?
FIDELITY REPRESENTATIVE: You are welcome to review the fund's prospectus online if you like.
ME: I have your report in my hand.
FIDELITY REPRESENTATIVE: The figures presented on Fidelity.com are regularly reviewed and re-calculated with new data and are correct.
ME: Lots of words, not much clear explanation on the return.
ME: If they are correct, should be easy to verify.
ME: You have heard the phrase, "trust, but verify?"
ME: Can I talk to a super?
FIDELITY REPRESENTATIVE: Certainly. Just a moment.
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ME: Hi: Seeking explanation of FWWFX return ---- price, div and cap gains on how FIDELITY figured 6.64% return FWWFX. Price Oct 31 2013 was 25.41, Oct 31 2014 was 24.93, plus div .087 plus cap gain 1.979 gives me 6.2% , not 6.64% as published. Put me straight....
FIDELITY SUPERVISOR: Hello, my is (withheld) and I am a supervisor in the Electronic Response department. Would you mind if I take a moment to review your chat so far?
ME: No problem, take your time...
FIDELITY SUPERVISOR: Thank you for your patience. I am happy to help to the best of my ability. We do not have all of the details of everything that is factored into that calculation, but I can see if I am able to duplicate that figure.
FIDELITY SUPERVISOR: Give me a few minutes to run through the historical data for FWWFX.
ME: brb in 5 min ok?
ME: Don't hang up on me ok?
FIDELITY SUPERVISOR: That's fine. I will post my findings and wait until you return.
ME: Thank you, brb.
FIDELITY SUPERVISOR: I am still reviewing the performance figures. It may be just a few minutes longer.
ME: Take your time, I appreciate your assistance.
ME: Would like to get this right.
ME: Prob. I am just missing something.
FIDELITY SUPERVISOR: I have been running a few different figures to try to replicate that return %. I was looking at the change between 10/31/13 and 10/31/14 and also 11/1/13 to 10/31/14. The numbers are close, but I am not able to get that exact number.
FIDELITY SUPERVISOR: The report mentions that those figures are based on the fiscal year ending on 10/14/14, but it never mentions the specific dates that are used in the calculation.
ME: In your booklet, it says "periods ended Oct 31, 2014. I don't see Oct. 14
ME: In your booklet, it says "periods ended Oct 31, 2014." I don't see Oct. 14
FIDELITY SUPERVISOR: I'm sorry, that was a typo.
FIDELITY SUPERVISOR: I meant to write 10/31/14.
ME: No problem.
FIDELITY SUPERVISOR: I am assuming this would be 11/1/13 through 10/31/14, but that part is not made clear in the Investor's report. Going on that assumption, I took the difference between the prices on those dates, which would be -$0.46, and factored in the total distributions for the year ($2.066), to get a total difference of $1.606.
ME: OK. Did you figure a return? Or should I?
ME: We are getting the same dist., i.e. 2.066.
ME: Are we agree that we go from Oct 31 to Oct 31, 2013, to 2014/
FIDELITY SUPERVISOR: Based on the basic calculation for return, we should just divide $1.606 by the starting price, $25.39 on 11/1/13, which gives us 6.325%.
ME: Are we agree that we go from Oct 31 to Oct 31, 2013, to 2014?
ME: OK, at 6.325% still falls short of the reported 6.64%, it would appear.
FIDELITY SUPERVISOR: I would imagine it would be 11/1/13 to 10/31/14. I did also run the numbers from 10/31/13 to 10/31/14 and did not find a match with the 6.64%.
FIDELITY SUPERVISOR: My conclusion is that there is some other factor that is slightly altering the figure, and that is likely just a difference in the pricing dates that were used for the fiscal year.
FIDELITY SUPERVISOR: I apologize that I am unable to provide more information. Our analysts do not provide us with anything outside of the same documents that are presented to our clients.
ME: So, for a "civilian" like myself, there is no relatively easy way to verify Fidelity returns?
FIDELITY SUPERVISOR: Unfortunately we do not have any further access to all of the variables that were used in the calculation. The numbers go through a long process of cross-checking by different internal groups for accuracy.
ME: And no one at Fidelity who can provide same?
FIDELITY SUPERVISOR: There are individuals in the fund management group who have access to all of the details, but they have not made them publicly available and the group is not accessible to front line representatives.
ME: Thanks for trying, I do appreciate the effort, but must admit I am somewhat disappointed and disconcerted that such a seemingly simple thing as "fact checking" is not able to be done here.
FIDELITY SUPERVISOR: I am sorry I wasn't able to provide you with the solution you were looking for. I will submit feedback to our Fund Management group to suggest adding specific dates for the fiscal year calculations.
FIDELITY SUPERVISOR: Please let us know if you need any assistance in the future. Have a good rest of the day.
ME: Yes, if I may say, I think there are many pages of fine print in the shareholder update, but perhaps, from my vantage, ask mgt. to add a simple, short explanation, plain to see, on how the annual return was calculated.
FIDELITY SUPERVISOR: That is a great suggestion. I will add that to the feedback that I am entering now.
ME: e.g. X + Y + Z DIVIDED BY A = RETURN. Just real simple.
ME: Then footnote as necessary until the cows come home.
ME: There is presently no easy, online way to verify your returns.
ME: Have a nice week.
FIDELITY SUPERVISOR: Thank you. You too!
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