Fleet Financial Group and Citicorp said investors are giving the thumbs-up to programs that enable them to trade shares of money market funds through automated teller machines.
Both banks initiated programs last year in which customers use ATMs to buy and sell shares and check balances of bank-managed money market funds.
Today ATMs account for 20% of all transactions by investors in Citibank's Landmark money market funds. And Fleet reports that money market holders use ATMs for several thousand transactions a month.
"It's something we thought they would want," said Citicorp spokeswoman Maria Rullo. "We're very happy with the amount of usage."
Customers cannot make their first purchase of shares through ATMs because these transactions require a prospectus. But the programs have enabled the banks to spread the word that mutual funds are part of the mainstream banking business.
Citibank began offering ATM access to customers in the New York metropolitan area last October, and has now rolled the service out in seven states.
Customers have access to four money market funds through 1,800 ATMs in seven states.
Fleet takes a somewhat broader approach to the bank's four Galaxy money market funds. Customers can use Fleet's own ATMs, or any ATM that's part of the Cirrus or NYCE networks, said Peter Herlihy, a vice president with Fleet Investment Services, the Rhode Island bank's investment arm.
Both Fleet and Citibank are closely watching a new initiative by Wells Fargo & Co. that allows the San Francisco bank's customers to trade stock and bond funds at ATMs.
More Complicated than Mere ATM Access to Funds
This is more complicated than merely allowing ATM access to money market funds, which invest in short-term debt, such as government securities. Shares of money market funds are fixed at $1.
In contrast, Mr. Herlihy said, customers may not realize that stock and bond funds fluctuate in value, and trades could trigger taxes.
Citibank already allows customers to check the balances of their stock and bond funds, and Fleet is looking into a similar service for next year.
But Mr. Herlihy does not see Fleet following Wells' example by allowing customers to trade and redeem stock and bond funds through ATMs.
This type of service is at odds with investment strategies for stock and bond funds, which are typically positioned as long-term investments. "Adding this element of liquidity is almost contradictory to the way these products should be approached," Mr. Herlihy said.