FRAMINGHAM (03/10/2000) - A new Boulder, Colo.-based online service is taking it upon itself to transform the back-office operations of investment clubs - semiformal informational consortia that fill a niche between do-it-yourself online brokerages and full-service houses.
At www.bivio.com, investment clubs can let Bivio LLC handle their books and streamline communications and research. Previously, these clubs handled their books either by creating a system from scratch or by buying software from the National Association of Investors Corp. (NAIC) in Royal Oak, Mich.
Intelligent Brothers and Sisters (IBAS), an investment club in Maryland, ordered a free demonstration of the NAIC package when it was starting up in October.
"With the software package, there were more features," said IBAS member Brian Collins, a servicing manager at CRIIMI MAE Inc. [NYSE:CMM] in Rockville, Md.
But, he said, the newly formed club didn't need all the features, and members decided instead to invest the money they would have spent on the software. They chose a free alternative to manage their club's data: Bivio's online service.
"We use a regular browser to access it and can look at it anywhere," Collins said. "All of our members are set up with individual e-mail addresses - that's our notification avenue for when our meetings are going to be taking place."
The club currently has 12 members. "We started it to educate our friends and families about investing," Collins said. Each member contributes $25 per month, but the goal is to give members enough confidence to begin investing on their own.
Bivio's site, which was launched last fall, doesn't yet track how well the clubs do with their investments relative to other clubs, but it will make that service available in the future.
Bivio has signed up more than 550 clubs thus far, and 1,700 individuals nationwide regularly use the site.
According to NAIC, there are between 80,000 and 90,000 investment clubs in the U.S., with a total of more than 1 million members. NAIC services some 37,000 of those clubs.
NAIC will also roll out online club services to supplement the educational materials it now offers online, said Mac Almond, NAIC's Web site director.