One-stop shopping for financial services may not be such a great idea after all.
That conclusion emerged at Jupiter Communications' first financial services conference, which last month gathered bankers, brokers, software developers, and Web-based companies in San Francisco to assess the future of "portals for consumer finance."
The conclusion goes against the banking industry's high regard for financial supermarkets. Citicorp and Travelers Group have made one-stop shopping a cornerstone of their recently approved merger.
"But customers will not be won over" simply because one financial institution offers an array of products, said Nicole Vanderbilt, senior analyst and director of the digital commerce group at Jupiter, a research firm based in New York.
Because the Internet lets consumers comparison shop, on-line financial battles are likely to be fought over who can design the best "portal," or gateway, to a range of financial services from numerous providers.
The winners could be existing Web portals like Yahoo, Excite, and America Online; software companies such as Intuit Inc. and Microsoft Corp.; on-line brokers; and banks.
David Pottruck, president and co-chief executive officer of Charles Schwab & Co., said his company intends to win the gateway race by positioning itself as a "hub" of financial services that facilitates transactions and provides customized investment information and education.
Jupiter officials released a report stating that brokers were beating banks to "portal status."
The study projected that discount brokers would achieve 31% of the market for Web-based personal finance by 2002 and on-line banks only 18%.
"To date, discount brokerages are the only institutions that have understood the needs of the on-line consumer," said Ms. Vanderbilt.
Jeff Mallett, chief operating officer of Yahoo, took issue with Jupiter's stand. He argued that Yahoo's 27 million users-18 million of whom are registered -make it a force to contend with. "We see ourselves as a lifestyle company where people from all walks of life can come and pay bills or make purchases," said Mr. Mallet.
Financial institution representatives also took issue with Jupiter's weighing in behind brokers. Banks' eroding share of the market for investment dollars "has nothing to do with the on-line space," said Blaise Heltai, senior vice president of on-line financial services at Fleet Financial Group.
Others countered that size and market capitalization give banks an advantage that few of the relatively small discount brokerage houses can match.