Like all full-service brokers, Hartford, Conn.-based Advest has been trying to figure out how to benefit from the Internet without making its reps feel like theyre expendable. A solution the firm hopes will appeal to Web-happy customers and off-line brokers alike was rolled out in May. The firm is offering a service whereby clients who register will have all their activity at the firms Web site monitored by the firm. The information gathered will then be forwarded onto their broker.
This is a way to enhance our services by providing brokers with better information about their customers interests, says Ernie Smith, the chief information officer for the firm.
The Advest site, like countless sites throughout the industry, offers clients the chance to check stock prices, news stories and performance data. While many customers use firm Web sites to check on their investments, many surveys show that clients also like to browse and poke around at home pages checking on investment possibilities in the manner in which people kick tires at new car dealers.
For the brokers, this will give them a clear sense of what is on a customers mind, says Julio Gomez, head of Gomez Advisors, a Massachusetts-based consultant. He adds that clients also may decide to jump into different investments once they discover them on Web sites and learn more.
Advests system was developed by the firm in conjunction with Reality Online, a subsidiary of Reuters that has created on-line trading systems for discount brokerages.
So far, according to several brokers, its too soon to tell what impact this Internet experiment is having. The number of customers signing up is light.
I think we all need to be patient, says one Advest broker. If nothing else, its going to take a while before customers are comfortable having their activity monitored. Most people, by nature, dont like that sort of thing.