Marketing One, a company that supplies investment products and programs to banks, plans to make its site on the World Wide Web the primary source of information for its brokers.
Over the next two months, sales representatives at every bank the Portland, Ore., company supplies will be able to access an array of customer data, from portfolio composition to individual investment product performance, via the Internet.
For Marketing One, the nation's No. 2 third-party marketer of investment products through banks, the move is part of a larger plan to maintain its business at a time when many of the biggest banks have brought their investment programs in-house.
"We are really looking at the Internet as the vehicle to break the distribution cost paradigm," said C. Paul Patsis, chairman and chief executive of Marketing One.
By linking product information already compiled in its data base to its Internet site, the company will realize a huge cost savings in paperwork, Mr. Patsis said.
Although the Web site costs more than $2 million to develop, Mr. Patsis predicts it will pay for itself within two years of full-time use.
Mr. Patsis' enthusiasm contrasts sharply with most of his competitors and some consultants who are slow to embrace the Internet as a way for third-party marketers to cut their costs. Concerns include Internet gridlock, data security questions, the ability to recoup development expenses, and the apparent indifference of banks.
"I don't know if anyone has benefited from it except the people who made (the sites)," said Geoffrey Bobroff a mutual fund consultant in East Greenwich, R.I. The Internet will be limited as a tool for third-party marketers until transactions are regularly handled safely there, Mr. Bobroff explained.
At that time, every customer keystroke will reduce broker-dealer work load, he said.
The Marketing One site has been tested at several institutions, including Sovereign Bancorp. Marketing One program director Carolyn Royer said her firm's sales representatives at the Wyomissing, Pa., thrift visit the site two or more times daily.
Sales representatives agree that the Web site is easier to navigate than the company's older dial-up connection, Ms. Royer added.
But many third-party marketers are taking a wait-and-see attitude about the Internet. Some are predicting that an overloaded Internet is set to crash. And the government is still developing expensive initiatives to counteract superhighway jams.
"The whole thing is overloaded" said Richard Ayotte of American Brokerage Consultants Inc., St. Petersburg, Fla. He said switching entirely to the Internet wouldn't be prudent yet, and that the network is best used as a backup to other systems.