Senior managers from Europe's top three online discount brokerages were all in New York this week. While they had come to promote Germany's Neuer Markt, on which all three are listed, their visit also served to underscore key differences between the American and European online brokerage industries. What's most compelling is that all three were founded by traditional banking companies - and all are staying ahead of competitors in part because they can deliver a range a financial services through their platforms.
In the past six months this trio has experienced phenomenal growth, fueled by factors including the growing acceptance of the Internet, a rise in initial public offerings by the Neuer Markt (Germany's equivalent of Nasdaq), and the European public's growing enthusiasm about mutual fund investment. All three are German. The Commerzbank-founded Comdirect is No.1 in accounts; No. 2-ranked ConSors Discount-Broker AG is 75% owned by $3.8 billion-asset SchmidtBank, a family-run private bank based in Hof, Bavaria; and Direkt Anlage Bank was founded by HypoVereinsbank Group.