Cathleen Raffaeli says she has spent her entire career in the financial industry "trying to put forward the idea of one-stop shopping."
Now she is pushing that idea as president and chief operating officer of Consumer Financial Network.
Ms. Raffaeli said she aims to make CFN an all-inclusive aggregator of insurance, loans, and other financial products inviting all brands but favoring none.
She joined the Duluth, Ga., company in December from Citigroup Inc., of whose commercial card division she was executive director.
CFN already offers financial guidance and products to employees of 150 companies through a two-year-old Web site, mycfn.com. Now it plans to inaugurate a retail site, youdecide.com, in October.
"We want to be able to work with the employee in the workplace as well as the consumer at home," Ms. Raffaeli said.
Consumers visiting youdecide.com will be able to comparison-shop for such services as auto and home insurance, home equity loans, First USA Visa platinum credit cards, vision care, legal assistance, and financial planning.
CFN expects to introduce an on-line banking platform in the winter, Ms. Raffaeli said. She said the company is in discussions with Security First Network Bank and Compubank to provide such a service and is also talking with Spectrum, the electronic bill presentment venture of Chase Manhattan Corp., First Union Corp., and Wells Fargo & Co., about delivering bills to consumers on-line.
"We want to offer financial products tailored to unique specifications, on-line and in real time," Ms. Raffaeli said.
The original Web site was meant to address a major corporate personnel issue -- the fact that employees often fail to sign up for benefits they are entitled to because they do not understand them.
CFN's free employee-oriented Web site provides informational services, tool kits, a rules-based decision engine, transactional capabilities, and 24-hour customer service together with an array of financial products.
Federal Express Corp. was the first to enroll in the service for its employees, in December 1997. The list now includes such companies as Merrill Lynch & Co. and GTE Corp. And in August the Treasury Management Association said it would give its members direct access to CFN's offerings.
As for financial services providers, CFN has partnerships with 70 of them, including American Express Property and Casualty Cos., Countrywide Credit Industries Inc., and First Union Mortgage. It is offering 14 product lines. "We go out product by product to get best of breed," Ms. Raffaeli said.
The provider pays CFN a fee for every sale.
"Our programs are corporate-sanctioned but employee-paid," Ms. Raffaeli said. Personal information is kept in an Oracle Corp. data base and is used to fill in application forms automatically. "We can ... generate a questionnaire that is individual- and geography-specific," Ms. Raffaeli said.
CFN has alliances with the on-line editions of Forbes and SmartMoney to combine their content with financial planning services. It also has relationships with the Internet service provider Earthlink and the Hoover's Online business information network. CFN will create "a section for Hoover's visitors that puts all of our resources and expertise at the tips of their fingers and the top of the list of on-line financial service providers," Ms. Raffaeli said.
CFN aims to add health and dental information to the site this fall, as well as "life event information" to facilitate moves to new cities. "We'd also like to work with affinity groups and women's portals," Ms. Raffaeli said.
Consumer Financial Network went into business in early 1996 with three employees. Bertram Ellis, chairman and chief executive officer of iXL Enterprises Inc., bought the network that December and subsequently spent a year building its technology systems.
"He wanted to create a digital marketplace for financial services," Ms. Raffaeli said.
iXL owns a 77% stake in CFN. GE Capital Equity Capital Group, which recently invested $50 million in CFN, owns 23%.
Ms. Raffaeli said she views Intuit Inc.'s Quicken.com financial portal as CFN's primary competitor, but she is also wary of Toronto-based iMoney, which wants to take its brand of Web-based personal financial management into the United States.
Like CFN, iMoney, a free service, combines information with analytical tools and lets consumers conduct transactions with financial institutions. The 30 financial services companies participating in iMoney include banks, insurance companies, and mutual funds.
"We recognize that other people are going to endeavor to replicate our concept," said Henry Wolfond, iMoney's president and chief executive officer. Commenting on the potential competition, he said, "CFN doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, and it probably won't be as sticky a name as iMoney."
He added that iMoney "is well down the path with several institutions in the United States" to offer its financial service to American consumers starting in spring 2000.
Said Ms. Raffaeli, apparently undaunted: "We have very few diehard competitors, only prospective partners."