Full-Service Brokerage Leaders Tap Internet To Drive Business Dealings

Despite making few site enhancements this review period, G�mez Q1 2003 Scorecard reveals top-ranked firms leverage the online channel to stimulate client/advisor interaction, reinforce relationships

Waltham, MA, March 4, 2003 — Despite the prolonged retail trading recession, leading full-service brokers are harnessing the Internet channel to stimulate client/advisor interaction in ways that build relationships critical to continued growth, according to the Q1 2003 Full-Service Brokerage Scorecard released today by G�mez, Inc., the leading provider of Internet Channel Effectiveness solutions.

While limiting Internet channel feature and functionality enhancements to overdue site navigation and customer experience improvements, top-ranked full-service brokers are redoubling efforts to position the Internet channel as a conduit that drives planning and transactional activities through the advisor force. Top finishers on the eleven-firm Full-Service Broker Scorecard, more so than ever before, view the Internet channel as a relationship extender — not an inhibitor — as they slowly but surely integrate the advisor into the online experience delivered to clients.

For instance, twice consecutive Full-Service Brokerage Scorecard winner Salomon Smith Barney (SSB), joins Prudential Securities in enabling investors to e-mail results from its online planning tool to advisors to facilitate offline investment discussions. The site, moreover, allows for the manual entry of non-held assets, positioning SSB’s Web experience as an automated advisor intermediary.

In fact, both SSB and number-two finisher UBS PaineWebber (UBSPW) make it easy for advisors to login automatically to their clients’ Web experience from their advisors’ desktops. A simple one-click process lands the advisor in the client’s secure Web experience, ensuring that client and advisor are working from the same set of financial figures and scenarios.

“With the bloom long off the Internet channel, leading full-service brokers are using decidedly low-tech Web-initiated means to build and extend meaningful relationships with clients,” noted Dan Burke, a G�mez Vice President of Research who led the Scorecard research effort. “In the near term, firms that provide clients with an easy and seamless way to interact with advisors will get a lion’s share of their attention — not to mention assets — as investors continue to seek sustainable strategies for asset appreciation and retention amid difficult market conditions.”

While UBSPW vaulted over Merrill Lynch into the number-two position overall, the firm still faces challenges. For instance, although UBSPW enables advisors to leave virtual sticky notes on clients’ Web offerings to prompt viewing of items of interest online, the offering remains light in financial planning tools and third-party research. The inclusion of third-party research would provide additional investment insights for clients who still value a firm’s proprietary perspective, Burke pointed out.

Meanwhile, number-three ranked Merrill Lynch Online updated its cash management capabilities, but must still address access shortcomings. A major impediment to online bill payment services continues to be the requirement of a separate login at firms such as Merrill Lynch or SSB or the requirement of opening a linked checking account at others, such as at Wells Fargo. Cash management services must be more closely linked to the core investment offering to win over converts, and the experience must be seamless to online investment offering, Burke said.

“On the plus side, Merrill Lynch customers can now receive balance alerts to avoid excessive withdrawals and can nickname accounts to simplify the account management process, particularly if an investor wishes to create a separate account to handle household and non-investment related expenses,” Burke noted. “Users can even order additional checks online and request a check image, which is a feature most desired by individuals who actively bank online, according to our recent consumer market research.”

Though site changes were far and few between during the review period, one firm made its debut on the Full-Service Scorecard. Though landing at the bottom of the ranking, Wachovia Securities delivers an online offering strong on fundamentals, including basic account lookup functionality, replete with unrealized gains calculations by security and account, consistent navigation (within the secure and non-secure areas) and the ability to nickname accounts to simplify account review for multi-account households.

“The firm’s pending joint venture with Prudential Financial presents a significant opportunity to capitalize on the strength of its partner’s Web offering when and if functionality of the two sites is combined,” Burke said.

To qualify for this Scorecard, full-service brokers must first meet minimum criteria. All brokers on this Scorecard offer proprietary institutional research, a captive advisor force, the ability to participate in initial and/or secondary public offerings and browser-based self-directed stock trading. Brokers meeting the minimum criteria are then rated against one another on the quality of their Internet delivery of brokerage and related services to arrive at the 11 firms that comprise the published Scorecard.

About G�mez

G�mez serves companies that strategically depend on the effectiveness of their Internet channel to increase revenues and decrease expenses and provides the industry’s only comprehensive set of integrated solutions that help firms maximize the performance, functionality, and usability of their Internet channel.

G�mez Scorecards bi-annually measure the quality of e-commerce offerings, with a predominant focus on the Internet channel and a secondary focus on auxiliary channels and measures. Scorecards rank all firms in an industry that meet minimum standards of service (typically in terms of depth and breadth of product and national availability), and provide a snapshot of how industry players compare and contrast across user profiles and usage categories. G�mez, G�mez.com, G�mezPro, G�mez Scorecards, G�mez Performance Network and Internet Quality Measurement are trademarks and/or service marks of G�mez, Inc. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.