his week Manhattan has been overrun by hordes of venture capitalists and twenty-something Net entrepreneurs representing companies with names like Chili!Soft, CrazySavings, and eAnything. The event, of course, is InternetWorld
Prominently placed on the main showroom floor is a large display for "PowerStreet
is not another venture-backed startup trying to overturn the brokerage (and no-load fund distribution business). Closer examination reveals seasoned professionals from Fidelity Investments manning the display.
Fidelity launched PowerStreet
last week with all of the usual fanfare, including a massive advertising budget. Yet a close look at the product reveals more sizzle than steak.
In essence, PowerStreet
is the same old Fidelity brokerage site dressed up with a new interface and new colors.
"Our marketing people said it had to be red," said one nameless technician at the display.
Fidelity reps stressed that the other major addition to Fidelity.com (which is where PowerStreet
resides) is a new interface that lets visitors customize their "experience" on their site just like they can at all of the major Web portals. "You can even get your horoscope if you want to," gushed one rep.
The new "look and feel", dubbed MyPage
by Fidelity, is the end result of a partnership between Fidelity and Lycos. The fund giant points out that on the new site no two home pages have to look the same.
Still, the guts of the site -- users' ability to trade and its pricing -- are unchanged, reps admitted.
One other key change on the site is that PowerStreet
features in-your-face advertising -- just like the portals. A recent television ad has a Power Street sign placed atop a street sign for Wall Street.
So what's Fidelity's strategy and why would the world's largest asset manager (roughly $850 billion) want to build a new brand when its current nameplate is made from platinum? The simple answer appears to be that Fidelity has caught the Web fever. It is trying to court the same crowds as Yahoo!. Funny, we didn't think the Johnsons needed venture capital but he might be eyeing a Web-sized market valuation. Fidelity IPO, anyone?
Interestingly, Charles Schwab, the public company that has successfully built a dot com valuation skipped this year's InternetWorld.
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