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American Express Takes a Second Stab at Online Brokering

American Express Co. took the wraps off its revamped online brokerage Monday, launching a site that will go head-to-head with players like E*Trade, Datek, DLJ Direct, Schwab and Ameritrade.

American Express (AXP) has been offering online brokerage services through its Financial Direct division since 1996, but, with this new offering -- which offers more mutual funds and cheaper trading -- it hopes to get a fresh start and win new customers.

The company hopes to leverage its relationship with millions of credit card customers and bring them aboard as members of the new service, creating the kind of one-stop financial services shop to which many players are heading.

"Our aim is to be a leading destination site in financial services online," said Ruediger Adolf, senior vice president, strategic planning and business development, at American Express. "Now, with just the click of a mouse, customers can move from American Express Brokerage, to Membership B@nking, to personal or Corporate Card accounts, and even book a trip -- all at americanexpress.com."

The new American Express Brokerage aims to reach investors at both ends of the financial spectrum, offering trades for $14.95, free buys for customers with account balances over $25,000, and free buys and sells for those with more than $100,000 in their accounts. By contrast, Ameritrade offers trades at $8 for the simplest transaction and Merrill Lynch's new offering for wealthy customers charges a $1,500 annual fee.

The company touts its research and advice, offering information from the company's American Express Financial Advisors division and allowing customers to consult with these advisors over the phone or online. The site will also offer users access to nearly 2,000 different mutual funds, and, within a few weeks, American Express is expected to add tools to the site. This software will allow customers to evaluate their financial situation, model their asset allocation, and evaluate how a stock might fit into their portfolio, the company said.



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