Muriel Siebert insists that women must take control of their financial destiny and that the Internet will help them do so.
I think its apparent to most women today that at one time or another they are going to have to take control of their financial lives because of divorce, the death of a parent, or other life changes, she said.
But it is still rare to find a financial site for women built on the assumption that women are savvy about money and investing, as Ms. Siebert says her new Womens Financial Network site will do.
The site wfn.com combines two sites that Siebert Financial Corp. bought last week: Womens Financial Network and herdollar.com. (Terms of the deal were not disclosed.)
Ms. Siebert, chief executive officer of the New York brokerage firm, said she wants wfn.com to skip the frills found on other womens sites horoscopes, and information about hobbies and child-rearing and focus on providing serious financial information and planning tools.
The wfn.com site continues to offer trading services online, by phone, or in person; free checking; bill payment; and account aggregation. It also offers how-to pieces, some of which Ms. Siebert intends to drop in favor of meatier items such as information on the status of individual retirement account legislation in Congress. The site is to be updated and redesigned soon.
Wfn.coms founder, Jennifer Openshaw, has joined Siebert Financial Corp., as have the founders of herdollar.com, Mandee Heller and Tamara King.
Ms. Siebert, unlike many developers of financial Web sites, says she is less interested in making the site sticky than in making it useful.
I dont want to change the content every week or two weeks so it becomes sticky, she said. Ms. Siebert wants to see the site supported by trading rather than advertising revenue, though she did not rule out carrying ads.
Most women today are carrying two jobs, their job in the family and their salary job, and they dont want to get on the Web site and just surf, she said. They want to get on the Web site and do the business they want to do and then they want to get off.
Women often dont get the financial advice they need from traditional sources, Ms. Siebert says. Those who inherit money go into some of those trust departments and the men say, Dont bother your little head, well take care of it for you.
And the Web, frequently, is no better. I think some of the current Web sites talk down to women, and dont do the job theyre supposed to do, she said. Sites geared toward women provide only superficial financial information, she said.
Ms. Siebert has a long history in the financial services industry. In 1967 she became the first woman to buy a seat on the New York Stock Exchange. She took a leave of absence from Wall Street in 1977 to serve for five years as the first woman superintendent of banking for New York State. And she is now one of five people that Dime Bancorp chairman John Kanas intends to nominate to the New York banking companys board next year.
Much of the sites success, however, will depend on Ms. Sieberts own reputation something of which she is quite aware. Ive been making [product] choices for the customers in my firm for a long time, and we have pretty good ratings, she said. Integrity is very important when you are running peoples money.
But Womens Financial Network, like other niche financial sites, may have a long way to go to be successful.
A report released in April by Forrester Research of Cambridge, Mass., said womens financial sites face several obstacles. A wide range of competitors inhabit the Web broader-based womens sites such as iVillage and Women.com, as well as more traditional brokerage sites, Forrester noted.
Financial firms wont sit still as start-ups pick off their best female, gay, and Latino customers, the firm said. It pointed out that some existing brokerages, such as Scudder, had begun marketing to these demographic groups.
Many of these sites offer the same features, the report noted, and are powered by the same technologies such as account aggregation from VerticalOne, stock charts from StockMaster, and calculators from Financenter. These vendors sell to various sites, making it difficult to capitalize on technology to win customers, Forrester said.
In addition, there are no guarantees that women will be drawn to a site merely because its a womens site, the firm said.
Gender is only one component of a persons identity, it said. Women who identify themselves primarily by their sexual orientation, age, ethnicity, or income will shun women-specific sites in favor of Gay Financial Network, AARP, Zona Financiera, or J.P. Morgan.