Following Merrill Lynch's lead, Salomon Smith Barney has become the second major retail firm to offer free research to nonclients as a prospecting tool via a new Web site called www.smithbarneyresearch.com, announced in late March.
Brad Rubin, an SSB broker at the firm's 40 W. 57th St. branch in Manhattan (who got an RR reporter's registration as one of his leads) says that as of the week prior to Memorial Day, he had already opened close to 10 new accounts courtesy of the site, with a couple more good prospects still pending.
"Definitely, real good prospects come from this," Rubin says. The site's users run the gamut in terms of their ages and their assets, he says. "It's not just people who are techie-oriented. I've talked to people who have discount brokers and are looking for more information. The market is real volatile right now."
The SSB research site has an interesting report on Merrill Lynch, with previously unreleased statistics about Merrill's experience with its own research site, www.askmerrill.com, and confirmed by a Merrill spokesperson.
According to the report, by the end of January with two months of operation behind it, the site had generated $75 million in new assets for Merrill. The report also said that the site had produced 127,000 leads for the 2,400 Merrill financial consultants who were enrolled in a program to receive the leads.
Both the Merrill and SSB sites require registration in exchange for access to their research.
To increase their exposure on the Web, both Merrill and SSB, along with Gruntal & Co., have become "platinum sponsors" of a new Web service called Multex.com. New York-based Multex has long had a service that delivers research from more than 500 brokerage and investment banking firms as a package to institutional clients, but since this past November, Multex has had a version of its service for retail investors. Retail users get just some of the reports free.
As of early May, Multex had 300,000 registrants, who had downloaded more than two million reports, says Jim Tousignant, Multex executive vice president. The service has partnered with a number of key sites, such as Intuit, The Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition and CBS MarketWatch, along with the search engines Excite and Webcrawler.
As platinum sponsors, both Merrill and SSB have permanent ads at the top of Multex's home page, and individuals can click through to the firms' research trials.
"Most online investors are younger, and they haven't had historical experience with the full-service firms," Tousignant says.
SSB clients get a slight time advantage over nonclients regarding research. Clients can get updated research "call notes" every four hours through SSB's regular Web site and its online client service, but nonclients accessing the www.smithbarneyresearch.com site get updates only twice a day.