BankAtlantic Bancorp of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said it is expanding its on-line offerings to include brokerage services.

The move is part of an effort by the $4.2 billion-asset company to expand and improve the services it offers on the Web.

"We believe we will miss the boat if we don't start right away," said Ellen Schlafer, director of marketing at BankAtlantic.

The company is in a particularly good position to offer on-line brokerage services because it owns Ryan, Beck & Co., a New Jersey investment bank and brokerage company. Similar-size institutions looking to offer brokerage generally have to find a third-party partner in order to do so. BankAtlantic expects to begin offering access to Ryan Beck's trading and proprietary research next year.

In the nearer term, the company is focusing on improving its on-line banking services and will add electronic bill payment, consumer lending, and insurance services.

Currently, customers can gain access to account information and services offered through personal finance software like Microsoft Corp.'s Money and Intuit Inc.'s Quicken.

"An increasing number of individuals and businesses want access to their financial information regardless of the time and regardless of where they are," said Alan B. Levan, chairman of BankAtlantic. "Customers want this alternative delivery channel, and we want to be in a position to offer it to them."

Relatively few financial institutions of BankAtlantic's size offer customers on-line access to both banking and brokerage, said Carl Faulkner, managing director at M One Inc., a Phoenix consulting company. But that could change as more consumers come on-line and demand for Internet-based financial services rises.

A recent report by Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research said the number of U.S. households banking on-line will increase sharply in coming years. By 2003, 18.5 million households are expected to bank on-line, Forrester said; 3.4 million did so at the end of 1998.

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