Before agreeing to be bought by Wells Fargo & Co., H.D. Vest Inc. had built a handsome collection of alliances to offer cobranded services, deals that will be reconsidered in light of the Wells agreement perhaps to the partner companies detriment.
One H.D. Vest partner that may suffer is Compubank, which signed a deal with the financial planning firm in October to offer cobranded Internet services. The Irving, Tex., company was expected to generate customers for Compubank, and says it has done so. But Wells Fargo a giant in online banking may not find that arrangement to its liking.
Other H.D. Vest alliances will probably be affected by the Wells deal, which is expected to close in the next three months. H.D. Vest offers online brokerage services through Fidelity Investments National Financial Services LLC, account aggregation through Yodlee Inc., an H.D. Vest-branded credit card through MBNA Corp., and bill payment/presentment through Paytrust Inc.
We are going to have to sit down and evaluate all of our strategic partnerships, and we will have to do what is in the best interest of our current clients, said Roger C. Ochs, president of H.D. Vest. Wells Fargo and Compubank did not return calls for comment.
Compubank, of Houston, is one of several Internet banks pursuing cobranding or private-label relationships with firms that offer access to large numbers of loyal customers.
Internet banks can keep their marketing and customer acquisition costs low by piggybacking on the relationships their cobranding partners have established. But the risk is that these partners will also be attractive to larger banking companies, as happened in the case of H.D. Vest.
At www.hdvest-compubank.com, H.D. Vest customers can access Compubanks banking and bill payment offerings, certificates of deposit, and debit card services, in addition to H.D. Vests tax filing and preparation products. In a current promotion Compubank is offering $20 bonuses to H.D. Vest customers who open online checking or savings accounts by Saturday.
So far the partnership has been good, Mr. Ochs said. We have enjoyed a lot of success since we launched last year.
Three-year-old Compubank has similar relationships with General Electric, LendingTree, Nova Corp., a payment processor, and the music provider MP3.com. Such partners benefit by being able to provide an additional convenience to their online customers.
Paul Jamieson, director of financial services at Gomez Advisors in Waltham, Mass. , said H.D. Vest would be better off offering Internet banking through Wells Fargo than Compubank Wells Fargos name has much more brand awareness among the consumer population in general and among online bankers, he said. Such an arrangement would dilute the value of the Compubank alliance with H.D. Vest.
If the Wells Fargo buyout goes through, H.D. Vest will go from generating customers for Compubank to having them generated by Wells, Mr. Jamieson said. I would look to Wells, knowing they have millions of customers and that allows me to cross-sell my services to them, he said.