clearing firm that will help it broaden its services for banks. New York-based Essex announced that it has contracted with Ameritrade, a small clearing firm in Omaha, ending a relationship with National Financial Services Corp. An Essex official said the firm decided to switch after Ameritrade agreed to help it develop a computer system that consolidates transaction records of securities and fixed annuities on a single customer statement. The decision comes as investment marketing firms like Essex struggle to find ways to make themselves more useful to banks. In recent months, many bank brokerage operations have curtailed their use of outside firms. Though Essex boasts 250 banking clients - more than any of its competitors - the firm is working to expand its services as financial institutions get more sophisticated and begin selling a wider array of investment products. Essex executives said a consolidated statement will make it easier for bank brokers to offer comprehensive financial planning to customers. Brokers can now show customers their entire investment portfolios and insurance purchases in one glance, and sell them a variety of products. "The consumer that comes in the bank is asking for more services in one sitting," said Thomas E. Albright, Essex's executive vice president and chief operating officer. "This enables us to consolidate all those services." Mr. Albright said National Financial, a subsidiary of Fidelity Investments, was not interested in keeping the records of insurance products. Ameritrade lined up with Essex because its clients - including brokers at about 60 banks, registered investment advisers and discount brokerage operations - were asking for a way to consolidate statements of insurance products with securities. Ameritrade's clients now have access to products manufactured by the 17 insurance companies sold through Essex. Richard Sirbu, president of Ameritrade, said the ability to consolidate records of transactions of securities and insurance products "brings an awful lot of credibility to banks," who are new at offering comprehensive financial advice. While many companies are experimenting with such services by themselves, this is the first time a clearing firm and a company like Essex have allied themselves to offer this service, said Kenneth Kehrer, a consultant in Princeton, N.J.
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