In an apparent first, a Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce unit is offering investment products through tellerless grocery-store kiosks in Florida.
Amicus Financial, Canadian Imperials online banking unit, said it started selling four index funds plus a money market fund on Monday through store-brand kiosks in Floridas 100 Winn-Dixie Stores Inc. supermarkets.
The funds are managed by the online investment firm Whatifi Financial Inc. of Boston. They are available only to Amicus customers who have signed up through the private-label Marketplace Bank service provided at Winn-Dixie stores.
These customers can now establish Whatifi accounts, with as little as $100, through the kiosks, or can obtain information from them to open such accounts from home by computer or phone.
Whatifi (pronounced what if I) also provides investment advice via kiosk, PC, and call center.
The key in the supermarket is simplicity. People are going into these locations, and they want to be able to get what they are looking for quickly and easily, said Robert Almeida, the chief officer of strategy, development, and marketing at Amicus, which has 500,000 customers. If you can remove the barriers, more people will look to invest.
Harris Fricker, the chief executive officer of Whatifi.com, said the partnership is its first with a bank.
All five of Whatifis Van Ness Funds are offered; all are subadvised by Barclays Global Fund Advisors. The four indexes are the Standard & Poors 500; the Wilshire 4500; the Morgan Stanley Europe, Australia, Far East index; and the Lehman Brothers bond index.
There was a significant demand in their [Amicus] channel for investment solutions, and we were looking to expand distribution with this type of partnership so that we could target the entry-level saver, Mr. Fricker said.
Though other banks that operate branches in convenience stores and supermarkets have been offering a full portfolio of investment products for years, analysts say that Amicus is the first bank to offer investment products through tellerless grocery-store kiosks.
These branches are fairly educational they are not your typical full-service supermarket branches, said John Garnett, the chief executive officer of International Banking Technologies of Norcross, Ga., which develops in-store banking programs. Customers cannot go in there and buy a product from an account representative. Amicus had to find an investment product that could be sold without a salesman.
Mr. Garnett said Amicus approach to cross-selling mutual funds through grocery-store branches is unusually passive. Most in-store locations rely on salespeople being good cross-sellers, he said. Amicus is putting the product out there and relying on the customer. Time will tell how successful this is.
Amicus and plans to expand outside Florida to through Winn-Dixies 1,000 supermarkets in 14 states. By yearend, he said, it plans to roll out the mutual-fund terminals in its kiosks in Safeway Inc. grocery stores in California and Colorado, and Loblaw Inc. grocery stores in Canada.
We have to proceed slowly, Mr. Almeida said. This is a very simple investment product we are offering, and we are aware of that. We want to ease our customers into investment before we start expanding into more products and services.
Amicus, which the bank created in February 1998, sells its banking products and services under brands established by the parent company. It has partnerships with Loblaw Co., Winn-Dixie, Safeway Inc., and Yahoo PayDirect.