Citicorp has sprinted ahead of other banks in the race to let people use automated teller machines to make investments.
The country's largest banking company announced last week that it was letting customers buy and sell stocks, get price quotes on securities, and look up the value of their portfolios at all of its ATMs in this country.
The move adds a new twist to Citi's reputation as a leader in electronic banking.
"Our whole strategy is to offer customers access to their money regardless of where they are," said Citicorp spokeswoman Maria Rullo.
Citi started offering investment services through teller machines in October 1992, when it let customers trade shares in four of its proprietary money market funds through all 1,800 Citi ATMs in seven states.
Citi's new investment services are available to customers with accounts at Citicorp Investment Services - the New York banking company's brokerage affiliate -- and at Citigold, a unit that serves high-net-worth clients.
The rollout of the expanded list of services is scheduled for completion by the end of this month.
The service is already available on 1,400 ATMs in the states of Connecticut and New York and in the Chicago and Miami areas.
The banking company began introducing the expanded services in mid September, but didn't make any big press announcements until last week.
Citicorp isn't the only bank to let customers use ATMs to make investments. At least two other banks already let customers buy and sell money market mutual fund shares through ATMs.
Wells Fargo & Co. last year let its customers buy and redeem shares in its proprietary stock and bond funds at its 1,700 teller machines. The San Francisco banking company is currently the only institution to offer this particular service, according to Anne Moore, president of Synergistics Research in Atlanta. However, Citi is planning to add it eventually, Ms. Rullo said.
Fleet Financial Group also has an innovative wrinkle. The Providence, R.I., banking company lets customers buy and sell money market fund shares not only through the company's own network of 867 ATMs in New England, but also through the tens of thousands of ATMs on the Cirrus and NYCE networks.
More banks plan to follow suit.
In a survey of 51 banks' investment products strategies, done by the San Francisco-based Spectrem Group last year, nearly one out of four respondents said they planned to add ATM access to their proprietary funds.
Citi has topped these other pioneers by letting customers buy and sell stocks through ATMs. No other bank does this, according to Citi officials and Synergistics' Ms. Moore.
On Citi's new system, customers can get up to 10 stock quotes a day from the bank's ATMs for free. To place an order, the investor enters the stock symbol on the ATM keyboard, or types in the company name.
Customers then enter the number of shares they want to buy or sell. The teller machine screen displays the order, giving users an opportunity to correct or cancel it.
Investors can specify whether they want to buy or sell "at market" or set limits.
While Citi's executives are touting the system as a wave of the future, some industry observers are skeptical.
"I know it's sexy, I know it's exciting, but I don't know how much merit there is in it," said Eli Neusner, a consultant with Cerulli Associates, Boston.
Mr. Neusner doubts that affluent Citigold customers, who already have relationships with Citicorp Investment Services' brokers. will use ATMs for stock transactions.
"That's just not something they would be comfortable with," Mr. Neusner said, "and it's more sensible to deal with a broker."
However, Citi has already seen a good deal of interest in the investment services it offers through ATMs.
For example, a year after it added money market fund trading to its teller machines, a fifth of the transactions in these funds were made through ATMs.
"Anything you can do to make it easier for customers to access their accounts is a definite advantage." said Peter Herlihy, vice president at Fleet Investment Services, the Rhode Island bank's investment unit.