In the spirit of Budweiser's "Real Men of Genius" series, I'd like to salute the team who probably spent the past ten weeks compiling and formatting the data in the Annual Report my client just received. It's a Principal Funds document for the Institutional J & R Share Classes (and right there is where your eyes started to cross, I could see it, but stay with me here), dated October 31, 2009. It arrived in my work mailbox, wrapped in plastic emblazoned with words designed to entice me to open it:
IMPORTANT INFORMATION ENCLOSED
So, I did! How could I not? I was going to trash it immediately, but I just wanted to make sure there wasn't anything really important beneath the wrapper.
At first, I was all, oh great, another impossible-to-read document from the 401(k) people. But then I thought about the weeks of tedious work that must have gone into its creation.
Now, it's not much to look at – it's in black and white with a flimsy cover and newsprint pages. But the size of the document is stunning – it's 850 pages long, one inch thick, and contains detailed information that frankly, no one is going to read. At least not without a magnifying glass. And that's why I am saluting the team who was tasked with pulling this information together into one giant document: Have you ever tried to format columns of numbers in Word? Or generate a table of contents? It's daunting even for the simplest of documents. But this puppy is page after page of balance sheets and schedules and dollars and percent returns and realized gain/loss and all of the minutiae that matters little to the Average Investor but matters much to Financial Types.
Gawd help the poor entry-level typist who misspells MannKind Corp on the 15th page of Common Stocks, under Therapeutics, which comprise a piddly 0.75% of the holdings in the SmallCap Growth Fund II (Not to be confused with the SmallCap Growth Fund I). Because the fund managers and the good folks over at MannKind Corp will not look kindly on such an egregious error, even if it's nestled halfway down page 600 of an 849-page book. These people are all about the details!
I have been on the issuing end of what I often call my "exercises in futility" in HR. Government Regulations require me to send out annual notices that nobody reads. I actually fear that employees might read some of the things I send out, because many of them, in their government legalese, raise more questions than they answer.
So, because I know what it's like to fret over formatting and send out things that nobody reads, today I salute you, Mr. Investment Fund Annual Report Formatter. Because you agonized over the details and begged to receive all the content you knew you needed to include so you could make the deadline for the printers to publish this 850-page document and wrap it in plastic and send it out to HR managers whose companies have 401(k) plans that offer these funds. You know we're not actually reading this stuff, but you make sure every column ticks and ties and foots and aligns. Just in case.
Now, that's what I call dedication!