Slowly but slowly, brokerage firms are starting to provide wireless services to their clients, according to a report from Corporate Insight, which monitors U.S. brokerage firms' online presence. Currently, only six of the 16 biggest U.S.-based brokerages offer access to a specially formatted mobile platform, the research and consulting firm says, leaving room for firms that cater to mobile users to separate themselves from the competition.
Although some firms rely on high-touch service as a competitive differentiator rather than self-service, "It was surprising to notice that a lot of firms that are very Web-focused and geared toward individual investors didn't offer specially formatted mobile sites," says Tim Ullrich, VP of monitor services, Corporate Insight.
Still, the fact that six firms offer customers a mobile application shows that the industry is starting to take consumers' changing lifestyles seriously. They're giving clients access to account information, news and watch lists on mobile devices, such as PDAs and Web-enabled phones. Five of the six firms even let customers trade on mobile devices, according to the report. However, just "two firms have a strong platform that they could push to users as a selling point," Ullrich says. "For the others, it's just an add-on."
According to Ullrich, brokerage firms need to step up their mobile efforts. "We'd like to see easier access to these sites; we'd like firms to position the product as more of a selling point rather than an add-on. It would be interesting if you could do everything on your phone that you could do on the standard Web site, making it a truly mobile relationship, and use more interactive features like charting and streaming real-time quotes."