City National Corp. of Beverly Hills, which is known for catering to high-net-worth individuals and businesses, has increased its Internet offerings and at the same time entered the discount brokerage business.
Many bank companies that serve the rich, such as J.P. Morgan & Co., have used the Internet to tap a broader market. For City National, the introduction last month of online trading, research, and account access was simply a better way to serve clients it already has, said Vernon C. Kozlen, executive vice president and manager of the trust and investment division.
The goal is "to enhance a long-standing relationship model with additional points of contact," he said. "I don't think we're late to the game, because our business is not online discount brokerage."
Mr. Kozlen said he is not cowed by alliances such as the one between U.S. Trust Corp. and Charles Schwab & Co., which joined a money manager for the rich with a tech-savvy brokerage.
"The question is, Are they going downscale or maintaining their model?" he said. "We are maintaining and enhancing our model."
A force behind the online brokerage, which began operating last month, is City National's desire to let clients easily make changes to individual-directed retirement accounts, Mr. Kozlen said.
Customers outside the retirement-plan area have been slow to embrace online trading, he said, "partly because we've been a very personal-touch organization. Clients want to talk to our professionals."
Mr. Kozlen said he thinks many of his banking customers will trade online - the fee is $19.95 per transaction - but that the Web site will have more appeal as a way for busy professionals to check their investment portfolios from remote locations.
Kurt J. Reisenberg, a managing director of the Washington consulting firm VIP Forum, said banks serving the high-net-worth market do not absolutely have to offer Internet trading but should have some Web offerings.
"Our research has shown affluent investors like to be online, even if they're not necessarily trading," he said. "Any firm that doesn't have these capabilities is really putting itself at a disadvantage and really skimping on its clients."