Magazine article American Banker

Electronic Commerce: Canadian Internet Firm Sets Its Sights on U.S

Magazine article American Banker

Electronic Commerce: Canadian Internet Firm Sets Its Sights on U.S

Article excerpt

Operators of a Canadian on-line financial site want to take their brand of personal financial management into the United States.

To ease its passage across the border, the Internet aggregator iMoney is seeking partnerships with a U.S. bank, brokerage, and/or a media company, said Andrew Brown, executive vice president of the Toronto-based venture.

That could pose a challenge to Intuit Inc.'s and Microsoft Corp.'s MSN Investor, both of which have presences in Canada.

"Our service is much broader," Mr. Brown said.

Henry Wolfond, iMoney's president and chief executive officer, said his company's service combines information with analytical tools and lets consumers conduct transactions with participating institutions.

"We are not simply an information site," he said. "We integrate transactions into the content of the site."

MSN Investor and offer links to the sites of their financial service providers, but not the same capability to submit applications or open accounts at those institutions.

Like Investor and Quicken, iMoney acts as a conduit, connecting on-line customers to 20 institutions, including banks, insurance companies, and mutual fund organizations.

Consumers can compare quotes, rates, and products, conduct transactions on-line, and get up-to-the-minute financial and company news. Tools developed by iMoney make the site dynamic and interactive, Mr. Brown said.

The company considers its transactional capabilities unique.

"Our site integrates the user experience with the order-entry screen, pre-populated with information so the consumer can go right through the purchase to verification," Mr. Brown said.

Currently, iMoney is working on ways to simplify transactions. "The easier a transaction, the higher the rate of fulfillment," Mr. Wolfond said.

He estimated that 66% of credit card applications are completed, compared to only 10% of mortgage applications, which are more complicated.

In the next 12 to 18 months, iMoney might introduce one-click purchasing, a digital-wallet concept that aims to simplify transactions by eliminating the need to re-imput information for every visit to the site, said Rick Yazwinski, chief technology officer.

"Right now, if consumers apply on-line they are required to recomplete the application form," he said.

The iMoney service is available free to two types of consumers. About 300,000 people use it monthly to obtain financial information. There are 115,000 more consumers registered on the site who may use enhanced tools to monitor stock portfolios and track assets.

Available through the site are credit cards, personal loans, mortgages, certificates of deposit, stocks, mutual funds, and auto insurance. It can alert consumers to changes in their accounts by telephone, pager, e-mail, or mobile phone.

"We're giving consumers control over their finances and choices," Mr. Brown said.

The Canadian depository institutions in iMoney are Toronto-Dominion Bank, Canada Trust, the FirstLine Mortgages division of Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, and the Montreal Trust division of Bank of Nova Scotia.

The insurance companies represented are Dominion of Canada General Insurance Co., Economical Insurance, and Scottish & York Insurance.

Fidelity Investments, AGF, Templeton, Trimark and AIC are the mutual fund companies in the program. Charles Schwab Canada is the only brokerage.

Mr. Brown, 34, and Mr. Wolfond, 40, dreamed up iMoney in 1995 during their tenures as lawyers for Bayshore Capital Inc. …

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