In a bid to become the leading on-line brokerage, Fidelity Investments relaunched its trading site on Monday with a slew of new services, a new brand name, and an advertising agreement with the Internet portal Lycos Inc.
The site, called Powerstreet, represents an attempt by the Boston-based mutual fund giant to move into the same league as on-line leaders such as Charles Schwab & Co. and E-Trade Group.
"We're dedicated to getting customers and prospects alike to understand that Fidelity is more than the largest mutual fund company. We also have the best brokerage offering," said Stephen Cone, the president of Fidelity customer marketing and development.
For frequent traders, the site will offer more sophisticated research tools such as Nasdaq level II quotes, and provide the ability to execute more exotic trades on-line, such as short sales. The site will also enable investors to customize a "start page" that could display news on designated companies.
Powerstreet will "extend more sophisticated tools to a broader audience, and allow customers to designate how to use our services to serve their investment needs," said Gary Burkhead, vice chairman of Fidelity's parent, FMR Corp., and of Fidelity's personal investments and brokerage group.
Besides becoming a charter advertiser on the Quote.com site that Lycos has agreed to buy, Fidelity has agreed to have Lycos support its personalized start pages. In turn, Fidelity will include Lycos in its large-scale Powerstreet advertising campaign, which is scheduled for the fall.
Fidelity also plans to give away Palm VII handheld organizers to investors who open accounts next month. The firm began sending investment alerts to traders via wireless devices earlier this year.
Fidelity will not change its fee structure, which allows trades for as little as $14.95, said Tracey Curvey, executive vice president of Fidelity Online Brokerage. Fidelity officials declined to say how much they are investing in the improved site.
Analysts applauded Fidelity's efforts, but warned that the company has a ways to go to catch up with Charles Schwab & Co. of San Francisco, which is widely considered the on-line brokerage leader.
"It's a good strong move by Fidelity," said Bill Doyle, an analyst at Forrester Research in Boston. "They see the need to differentiate their retail brokerage from the mutual fund image. The fly in the ointment is, it's still me-too stuff," he said. "They're still catching up to what Schwab and even E-Trade are doing."
But with on-line trading still in its infancy, Mr. Doyle said, Fidelity has a good shot at attaining market share. He said a recent survey by Forrester suggested that there are fewer than four million on-line accounts engaged in active trading, a number expected to grow significantly.
Fidelity's challenge, he said, is to move as quickly as Schwab, which is considered a much more agile company.
Dan Burke, an analyst at the consulting firm Gomez Advisors, in Lincoln, Mass., said the significance of the move is not so much what Fidelity is offering on-line, but more that it now aims to compete against companies such as Schwab.
"They're finally really putting a stick in the ground and saying they're committed to on-line brokerage," he said.