One-stop financial shops may be all the rage, but consumers will still base their financial services decisions on lowest prices and highest rates, which are more likely to be found by shopping on the Internet, said Michael E. Gazala, senior analyst at Forrester Research Inc.
The Internet will help the up-and-coming consumer group known as "emerging affluent" to make considered choices, Mr. Gazala said last week at the Securities Industry Association's 12th annual technology conference.
"Over the next eight to 10 years, the Internet will catalyze the offering of 'best of breed' financial services to the mainstream investing public," he said.
Mr. Gazala's Cambridge, Mass.-based firm is studying the habits of 8,000 on-line households. It concluded that access to Internet-based financial services and the ease of moving money electronically are in high demand, particularly by households earning between $50,000 and $150,000 annually.
This emerging affluent segment represents 15% of all households but earns one-third of the nation's total household earnings.
With providers of banking, investments, and insurance products merging at an unprecedented pace, Mr. Gazala raised questions about the future success of companies like Citigroup, which would result from the planned $70 billion merger of Citicorp and Travelers Group.
One-stop shops "bundle their own mediocre products along with one or two star offerings," Mr. Gazala said in an interview.
Citigroup has "the brand, the scale, and the ability to offer advice," he said. "What they don't have is the vision of taking one-stop shopping to the next level" by retailing products of other companies rather than "cross-selling proprietary products to the nth degree."
Melvin Taub, the SIA conference's keynote speaker and senior executive vice president at Salomon Smith Barney, a unit of Travelers, did not disagree.
"Our goal quite simply is to provide the best products that are available," he said in an interview.
The new Citigroup would refer customers to third parties, he said, while maintaining a relationship with the customer and retaining relevant customer information.