Citigroup on Monday put the finishing touches to a reorganization of its online strategy with the launching of a stand-alone Internet brokerage capability called Cititrade and a reworked online banking service called Citibank Online.
The moves complete an initiative begun six months ago when the New York banking company began to reorganize its e-Citi unit and move all of its Internet activities into the consumer banking group.
We set out to have all our consumer products available on the Internet, said Robert Willumstad, vice chairman of Citigroup Inc.s global consumer group. The last remaining piece of the puzzle was the brokerage offering, he said.
Other recently announced innovations have included the July launching of MyCiti, an account aggregation site; the merging of Citibanks Direct Access product, along with Citi f/i, its former Internet bank, into Citibank Online; and the start-up of a person-to-person payment system, C2it, two weeks ago.
Cititrade, Citigroups new stand-alone online brokerage operation, aims to challenge the big guns of the online brokerage industry.
With online trades priced comparably with Charles Schwab & Co. at $29.95 per transaction, and access to research generated by Citigroups Salomon Smith Barney unit, Cititrade will trawl for customers outside of Citigroups customer base, said Cititrade director Stephen Clifford.
Were targeting this at the do-it-yourself investor which Citigroup didnt really cover in the past, Mr. Clifford said.
Previously, Citigroup offered online trading only to existing bank customers. They can still gain access to online trading at the revamped Direct Access site, which underwent a makeover Monday and is being renamed Citibank Online.
Cititrade, which is operated by Citicorp Investment Services, is to offer stocks, options, bonds, and mutual funds.
And to coincide with the launching, Citigroups $397 billion asset management unit, SSB Citi Asset Management, has introduced a line of index funds that will be available online, Mr. Clifford said.
Its the first time ever that weve offered a family of no-load index funds, Mr. Clifford said. The 11 new index funds are to be available with no sales charges at Cititrade beginning Nov. 27. They include mutual funds pegged to the Fortune 500 and Fortune e-50 stock benchmarks.
Cititrade is accessible at www.mycititrade.com and is to offer after-hours trading from 4 to 8:30 p.m.
Other Cititrade features include online bill payment, proprietary interactive financial and planning tools, and news from Dow Jones, Barrons, PR Newswire, and BusinessWire.
To open a basic Cititrade account, a person must put down a minimum of $2,000. Individual retirement accounts and custodial accounts require minimum investments of $1,000 and $500, respectively.
Customers can also link up to Quicken Inc.s TurboTax product so investors can fill out their taxes online and report their gains and losses, according to Mr. Clifford.
Citigroup will promote Cititrade on America Online Inc. and will rely heavily on cross-selling it within Citigroup, Mr. Clifford said. It will be featured on AOL at CitiCenter and at MyCiti, Citibanks account aggregation site.
Cititrade has 150 employees, most of whom are series 7-registered representatives working from the banks call center. Unlike Charles Schwab & Co., which opens 75% of its accounts through branches, Cititrade customers can only open an account online, through the call center, or by mail. However, they can pick up the mail-in application form at any Citibank branch.
Citibank Online which also came out of Robert Willumstads global consumer group on Monday is the next generation of online banking for Citibank, said Don Parsons, its director of operations. It is built on top of Direct Access and should appeal to the one-stop shopper, he said.
In June, Citibank moved its customers who used its proprietary Direct Access PC product to the Internet, and there are now 500,000 active Direct Access customers online. Mr. Parsons said Citibank has revamped the service to turn it into a financial services portal. It has also added planning tools with educational content, improved navigation, and added a quotes and research capability with content from Zacks and Reuters.
The site was always short on carrying education to make offers to customers that made sense, Mr. Parsons said.
Citibank Online has links to MyCiti and Cititrade. In the first quarter, account aggregation and bill presentment are scheduled to be added to the site. The relationship is banking first not brokerage, Mr. Parsons said. We give a basic ability for someone to look at their stocks and bonds. The predecessor to Citibank Online, Direct Access, was for Citibank customers only.
Now, anybody can log on to Citibank Online as a member. Before Citibank Onlines official launch Monday, Citigroup spent the past two weeks testing it in markets in Nevada and Las Vegas. So far, the initial market tests have been positive, Mr. Parsons said. Over the next year the site will be made available in all 50 countries where Direct Access had a presence.
Ron Mandle, banking analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., described Citigroups new online innovations as more evolutionary than revolutionary.
Last week, Gomez Advisors Inc. launched its Fall 2000 Internet Banker Scorecard and Citibank Online earned the No. 1 spot.
It knocked a perennial leader off the top slot, said Paul Jamieson, senior analyst of banking and payments at Gomez.
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