Barclays Global Fund Advisors, the San Francisco investment management arm of the venerable British banking company Barclays PLC, typically serves multinational corporations and financial institutions in the world's financial centers, but it also has its eye on people like Mikolaj Piskorski.
A graduate student at Harvard University, Mr. Piskorski, 27, has never had a lot of extra money, but he has prospects. He is married, saving to buy a house, and looking to provide for the college education of the children he hopes to have -- and he has about $1,500 to invest. However, he became discouraged when he started to shop for mutual funds at Boston-area banks.
"They wanted a large minimum investment, and that was impossible," Mr. Piskorski said. "After fees and everything, I figured I might as well keep my money in a bank and earn interest."
Then a fellow student told Mr. Piskorski about a Web site, Whatifi.com, that caters to young investors. The site, which is to be launched nationally today, with the Barclays unit acting as subadviser, focuses on advising clients like Mr. Piskorski on their long-term investment options.
"Today's 25-year-old is very different from what the baby boomers looked like at this age," said Harris Fricker, chief executive officer of the San Francisco site. "These are folks that are focused on building long-term wealth. They aren't all interested in day trading. We want to build a company that helps the average investor buy the market."
Whatifi.com has a partnership with the Barclays unit to create a family of five index funds for investors 25 to 37 years old, Mr. Fricker said. The site registered 2,000 customers and opened 200 accounts during a soft-launch period that began Aug. 15, he said.
The site's average investor so far is about 30 years old, with an income between $40,000 and $55,000, Mr. Fricker said. "These are people that are just getting started in their professional life and don't have time to become savvy investors. …