Fidelity Swells to 4.22M Online Accounts

FRAMINGHAM (04/20/2000) - The nation's largest online brokerage got even bigger in the first quarter as Fidelity Brokerage Services Inc. in Boston reported yesterday that it now has 4.22 million online accounts.

That number reflects a nearly 22 percent increase from the 3.47 million accounts Fidelity reported in the fourth quarter of 1999. Fidelity's online assets held rose 22 percent from $269.2 billion to $328.3 billion, while daily commissionable trades conducted online rose 59 percent from 74,870 to 119,241.

"They are the leader in the number of online accounts, so you'd expect to see this kind of growth from them," said Larry Tabb, group director for the security and investments practice at TowerGroup in Needham, Massachusetts.

Tabb said he expects the exponential growth of online brokerages to continue as full-service firms like Fidelity, Merrill Lynch & Co. and Charles Schwab & Co. offer more services to online traders.

"There's value there," Tabb said. "It's not all transaction-based anymore.

Brokerages are looking at creating a multichannel discipline."

Online accounts for Fidelity in the fourth quarter of 1999 represented 24 percent of its total. That number rose to 27 percent in the first quarter of 2000. The company also reported that 84.7 percent of all its daily commissionable trades were made online, up from 81 percent in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, 38.6 percent of its mutual fund trades were made online, up from 31 percent in the previous quarter.

In fact, Fidelity's daily online mutual fund trades more than doubled in number from 17,470 to 37,324.

The company also announced an agreement with Sprint PCS Wireless Web to add Fidelity to the home pages of the company's phones. Fidelity customers will be able to access their accounts using the phones, get stock quotes and place trades.

Fidelity will also launch a discounted airline connection service with Inflightonline.com later this year. Tabb sees these agreements as new approaches toward satisfying the national zeal for the stock market using technological advancements.

"People basically feel if they're out of the market, they're out of touch," he said. "It's the cool thing to do today."

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