In a new wrinkle in financial planning, SaveDaily.com Inc. is encouraging would-be savers to shop.
By purchasing goods from any one of 90 merchants on SaveDailys Web site, members reap rebates that they then must invest in a mutual fund. Little by little an account can be opened with as little as $5 their rebate money grows.
Our goal is to empower customers to micro-save and micro-invest, said Ken Carroll, the Irvine, Calif., companys chief financial officer.
SaveDaily has enrolled 7,500 members since it started its Web site in November. Eighty-two percent have incomes of less than $75,000 and more than half have less than a year of investing experience.
Rebates range from 2% to 11%, and the average is 4.7%. SaveDaily keeps 30% of the rebate to cover costs. It also keeps up to 1% of a customers assets under management and charges a $12.99 annual fee.
For that fee they get all the transactions they want, said Mark Maruyama, executive vice president of business development at SaveDaily.com. Customers can withdraw money from the mutual fund free as long as it has been in the account for more than 15 days.
About 15% of the members use the rebate program, which sweeps rebates into mutual fund accounts every 15 days. If a mutual fund has not been selected, rebates are put into the least aggressive account. Members can increase their investments by adding money directly to their accounts.
You are going to buy things in your life, no matter what, Mr. Maruyama said, explaining the concept of consumption-based savings. Here you can go ahead and get rebates back and put it toward your financial future.
SaveDaily, which is now on its third round of venture capital funding, is discussing licensing its service to a number of online banks and to companies from other industries. The 13-employee company would not say whether or not it is profitable, and when asked about a possible initial public offering, Mr. Maruyama would only say: We do not have an IPO as our only exit strategy. We are open to merger and acquisitions ... as long as it fits with our core mission.
Geoff Bobroff of Bobroff Consulting in East Greenwich, R.I., said it will be tough for SaveDaily to turn a profit given its target market. There are people willing to take part in the program, but not with meaningful enough dollars, he said. Economically this is a small market, and it is one that the fund market wanted to avoid.
Only two other companies appear to have a similar business model: UPromise Inc. of Brookline, Mass., a micro-investor solely for college savings, and Stockback LLC of New York. SaveDaily officials said they are not discouraged by the threat of competition from these companies or from larger online financial institutions.
The powerhouses cannot handle these markets, Mr. Maruyama said. The folks that we target do not hit their radar screens. Weve had conversations with them where they said, Best of luck, we are not interested in doing this type of thing.
Once customers log on to the site, give basic contact information, and identify their investment goals, they are presented with a selection of mutual funds and can view the prospectuses online.
After members select a share purchase, the information is delivered to DST Systems of Kansas City, Mo., which serves as the transfer agency.
DST Systems then sends the information to the mutual fund manager and to United Bank of Missouri, which transfers the customers money into a custodial account, where it is held until the trade settles. Upon finalization of the trade, which usually takes two to three days, the customers account is debited.
One affiliate of SaveDaily, Event Marketing International in Moorestown, N.J., is a direct marketing company that targets small-business owners. It plans to use Save Dailys technology in three of its small-business sites, at which customers will shop popular business supply stores that are allied with SaveDaily.
Mr. Bobroff called SaveDaily interesting but somewhat of a gimmick. He added, Maybe it is a cheap shot, but we have seen other bonuses coming to consumers through their affinity relationships.