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Cristina McEachern
Cristina McEachern
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Wachovia Embarks on its E-commerce Adventure

Online Brokerage Begins Beta of Wireless Trading

Having been plucked from the inner marketing culture at Wachovia Securities to jump-start its fledgling e-commerce division, John Curry has his work cut out for him. Curry had logged eight years in the marketing department at Interstate/ Johnson Lane before it was merged with Wachovia last year. It seems his knowledge of the firm's culture and vision of its e-commerce strategy made him an unusual, if not unlikely candidate by technology standards. In his new position as senior vice president and director of e-commerce, Curry is charged with turning around what he calls, "years of inactivity" in terms of Internet initiatives. Wachovia's recent bricks and mortar mergers and acquisitions have left rifts in the firm's e-commerce strategy, which Curry has wholeheartedly taken on and is in the processing of directing into a more consolidated channel.

Talk, Talk, Talk

Curry says his momentous task began with communication-specifically, six months spent talking to clients, senior management, IT people and marketing people-trying to identify what needed to be done on the Internet. Curry set out to unite a divided front of Wachovia Web sites that previously had no underlying connection. "Essentially I'm trying to dig out three years of inactivity in the first six months of 2000, which has become an enormous communications challenge."

As a company, Wachovia is actually made up of four separate financial sales channels- Wachovia Investments, a traditional bank-based broker/dealer; IJL Wachovia, a traditional full service broker/dealer; CAP Trust Financial Advisors, an independent hybrid investment advisory firm; and Wachovia Investments Direct, the discount brokerage arm of Wachovia Investments. "From an overall strategic point of view we're trying to orchestrate and fit the pieces together to make a more effective, consolidated organization," says Curry.

Laying the Foundation

The first phase of Curry's plan to get Wachovia's Internet strategy back on track was to build a "foundation of functionality" for the various sites. "We are developing a client service portal that will have accounting for real-time online statements, portfolio trackers, confirmation, online trading and a market center," says Curry, adding that the development of those programs will serve as the underlying foundation of all the sites. He adds that while the phase one platform, "won't be anything fancy, it will be a solid offering." Curry says that one component of the platform will be the beginning of unified contact management work, which will start with relatively little functionality and progress as Phase II evolves. "I basically want to have the raw materials in place so that we can grow and build from there," Curry says.

"Upon that foundation we're developing channel specific data strategies and re-designing each of the Web sites to create distinct identities with the same underlying client service portal." Curry emphasizes the importance of this first phase and the uniformity of the underlying functionality, which will move Wachovia into the next phase in the B-to-C process. "We are building this baseline functionality and platform that we can sustain and that will be available and will make sense to our customers," says Curry.

Content is King

The second phase in Curry's plan simply put is "get competitive," with enhancements to the platform. "We're looking to layer in more editorial content," notes Curry. "As a knowledge based business, the question is how can we as content provider layer on information that is what Wachovia is about, instead of just going out and purchasing editorial content or newsfeeds." Phase two would also involve more of a focus on the tools available through the sites.

"We've made some important vendor selections and some of the projects are in the development stages and should be rolled out in the next sixty days," explains Curry. Although he wouldn't specify the exact vendors for each, some of the selections include vendors for online statements, online trading, the re-design and consolidation of the sites as well as the aggregation of client service functions on the sites. "I am anticipating having all of our near-term goals accomplished by the end of June. That means having commission-based and fee-based online trading, online statements and confirmation delivery to customers, real-time account inquiry, value added content on our sites and a total re-design of the look and feel of the sites," he continues.

Focus, Focus, Focus

The final phase in Curry's grand e-commerce plan at Wachovia, although "science fiction at this point," will involve integrating new and developing technologies. He says Wachovia is working on "sort of a IJL Wachovia University where we can have clients go for interactive learning experiences," as well as a multi-media virtual tour of Wachovia for potential clients to get a better feel for the firm. "We're basically looking to create a dialog between our clients and our Web site," Curry explains. "In general, we are firmly entrenched in the click-and-mortar camp," says Curry. "We're going to use the Internet and technology to help execute our basic proposition-taking the knowledge that we have and feeding it out to the people."

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