W-Trade Technologies, a provider of securities trading technology for wireless devices, is adding a big-name customer and introducing a system for wireless banking.
Dreyfus Brokerage Services, part of Mellon Bank Corp.'s Dreyfus subsidiary, plans to announce today a wireless service based on w-Trade.
New York-based w-Trade is one of several technology vendors vying to support the wireless adjuncts to financial companies' Internet operations. In Dreyfus Brokerage, w-Trade notches a top brand name and entree into a major bank holding company.
Dreyfus Brokerage said it will charge no more for its wireless service than the current cost of Internet trades. Customers need to buy or lease a handheld communications device such as a two-way pager, Palm organizer, or Nokia 9000il Communicator.
The pricing is designed to set Dreyfus apart from companies that previously climbed on the wireless bandwagon.
Separately, with its new w-Bank software, w-Trade Technologies is making a play for the anticipated rush of Internet banks into wireless mode.
This trend, already established overseas, is just beginning in North America. Bank of Montreal, its Harris Trust and Savings Bank affiliate in Chicago, and Bank of America Corp. are trying to move into wireless leadership.
Though those banks' software vendor is 724 Solutions Inc. of Toronto, Jason Brown, w-Trade's director of communications, said B of A's recent announcement of its plans "is the best thing that could have happened to validate what we are doing."
Wireless has caught on faster for securities because of investors' sense of urgency and desire to be constantly connected, said Ed Kountz, an analyst with Tower Group in Needham, Mass.
Fidelity Brokerage Services Inc. led with its InstantBroker last fall, initially using a BellSouth network with RIM interactive pagers from Research in Motion Ltd. of Canada. Fidelity announced a version for 3Com Corp.'s Palm VII in May and is selling the capabilities to correspondent banks.
Among other big names, Discover Brokerage Services and Bear Stearns are relying on a w-Trade competitor, Aether Technologies of Owings Mills, Md.
Cell phones, RIM pagers, Palm products, and the like are well suited to tracking stocks and entering buy or sell orders, Mr. Kountz said. But with pricing as high as $595 for the Palm VII, plus inconsistencies in the cellular network and the need to upgrade screen interfaces, it may take some time for the phenomenon to spread into more of a mainstream banking market.
"The case for banking may not be as compelling today," said Mr. Brown. "But we saw what happened (in on-line banking and trading) as the installed base of personal computers went up, and we think the same will happen with services to hand-held devices."
W-Trade is hoping that its brokerage experience-its customers tend to be fast-moving Internet upstarts such as Mydiscountbroker.com and Firstrade Securities-appeals to banks that want to offer a full financial service.
"We are in talks with lots of major banks and expect to make at least one customer announcement" this year, Mr. Brown said.