With stocks falling, certificates of deposit linked to the stock market have held little appeal for consumers this year. But now a Cleveland thrift is trying to sweeten the deal.
Charter One Financial says its new Wall Street CD. which is pegged to the Standard & Poor's 500 index, offers guaranteed returns of at least 4% annually over three years or 5% over five years. Those minimums are thought to be among the highest in the nation.
"We wanted to create a conservative, insured savings instrument that would reflect stock market highs while providing our customers with an attractive minimum return if the stock index fell," said Charles J. Koch, president and chief operating officer.
The latest product from the $5.8 billion-asset thrift comes after unsuccessful attempts by Charter and several others to market this type of insured deposit product.
NationsBank, Glendale Federal, and Chemical Bank all have laid their stock-indexed CDs by the wayside after poor performance and lackluster consumer demand.
The products, which debuted late last year, lost much of their appeal after the stock markets turned sour and yields on the CDS declined.
"They have not caught fire at all among consumers," said Bob Heady, publisher of Bank Rate Monitor, in Boca Raton, Fla. "Stock-indexed CDs have ranged from a fizzle to a complete bust."
In fact, Mr. Heady said, the products have performed so badly that most banks would be better off promoting fixed-rate CDs.
Nonetheless. Charter is going ahead with promoting the Wall Street CD, which was to be available Aug. 15.
"Our customers told us, 'We need a product that gives us the confidence to try an equity-based investment.'" said Mark Grossi, a senior vice president at Charter.
The product has a rate of return that fluctuates according to the rise and fall of the companies represented in the stock index which, using quarterly averaging, has dropped as low as .34%.
The Wall Street CD, however, never falls below the guaranteed minimum rate. Mr. Grossi said that "safety net" is critical to drumming up business among consumers who want a higher rate of return but are shy about investing in noninsured products such as mutual funds or securities.
Mr. Grossi said he expects to roll out two more deposit products tied to other indexes by the end of this year. CDs with underlying indexes of all-Ohio stocks, and market segment indexed CDs are among those being considered, he said Charter One Financial, and its flagship Charter One Bank, make up Ohio's largest thrift with 99 offices serving 14 counties.