E-Trade Group said it will manage electronic messages to customers with the Interactive Messaging Platform of First Virtual Holdings Inc. of San Diego.

E-Trade had been testing First Virtual's e-mail technology since August. E-Trade will rely on First Virtual to deliver and handle responses from a personalized "e-newsletter" from the Internet brokerage company's chief executive officer, Christos M. Cotsakos.

First Virtual said that during the evaluation period it sent e- newsletters to all new Web site registrants, processed and responded to all e-mail bounces, and "scrubbed" E-Trade's customer data base to maintain data integrity.

The companies, both in the investment portfolio of Softbank of Japan, said they have embarked on a sophisticated integration project that will result in real-time customer interactions via e-mail, but they gave no further details.

E-mail, First Virtual's specialty since it abandoned the Internet payments business that gave it its start in 1994, is "one of the most powerful and cost-effective tools of the electronic commerce universe," said the company's president, Keith S. Kendrick. It is a means of "relationship building, targeted marketing, and true personalization that will save companies time and money over traditional direct marketing methods."

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