A:

Mutual funds offer consumers a great way to access a professionally-managed group of assets at a relatively low cost, with reasonable annual expenses. Mutual funds can be purchased in any investment account, such as an IRA, which can be opened with many different financial institutions, including banks.

Banks don't generally specialize in investing since they are more about savings, day-to-day financial transactions and loans. That means that a bank might have a more limited pool of mutual fund families - multiple funds managed by the same company - for their customers to choose from.

Also, not every mutual fund is the same as another. This makes it important to have a wide variety of funds to choose from, which could be an issue depending on your bank. For example, mutual funds can be tailored to many different priorities and investment styles; some are "green," meaning that the underlying investments are ecologically-friendly companies and inventions, some have no fees and so on.

On the other hand, a bank may have lower account balance requirements than a brokerage firm, making investing a real possibility for more individuals. In some instances, a brokerage firm may have a satellite branch in a bank, allowing customers a full range of mutual fund families and other investments within their favorite branch.

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