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Ranking - Top traders 30/06/2001

As Stock Market Recedes Customer Service and Usability Move to the Forefront of Importance for Online Brokers

Comdirect has Best Customer Service; IMIweb Maintains Number 1 Overall Place and Xelion Drops Off Top 7 in Italy According to BlueSky Ratings

Paris, 25th July 2001 – Research released by BlueSky International shows that while online brokers continue to invest in adding new products, tools, channels and information to their sites despite the difficult market, they are losing revenue opportunities because of under-investment in key drivers of customer satisfaction such as phone or email services and site usability. According to the BlueSky Ratings™ for June 2001, the leading eBrokers are essentially copying each other in their race to add products such as cross-border trading, mutual funds, warrants and multiple channels, but failing to optimise their investment in technology and products because they cannot service customers adequately with timely and accurate answers to basic questions about security, technology, trading or products. This inability to cross-sell products or to increase consumer confidence in online investing acts as an invisible drag on earnings and decreases the return on investment made by the eBrokers and their shareholders.

“There is a definite correlation between customer satisfaction and revenues for online brokers according to a massive customer satisfaction survey of more than 18,000 European investors and visitors to online broker sites BlueSky conducted earlier this year,” explained Suzan Nolan, president and lead marketing analyst for BlueSky International. “We found that a “totally satisfied” investor made 5% more online trades and increased his online trading volume by an average of € 9500 last year, generating additional revenues which drop straight to the bottom line whether the broker’s business model is based on transactions or asset volumes. However, the survey also indicated that while 91% of investors were generally satisfied with online trading, one in four customers were dissatisfied with customer support and one in three customers were dissatisfied with usability aspects like speed of page loading.”

“This feedback from European investors prompted us to revise the BlueSky Ratings to increase the level of transparency on how the brokers perform on customer service and usability aspects by making those scores visible separately from the overall rating. In this way we can deliver a better guide for the investor who is evaluating which broker to use or to invest in by letting him see a greater number of performance criteria that matter, as we continue to stimulate the brokers in Europe to be more competitive and improve their services and offerings for the benefit of the consumer.”

The June 2001 edition of the BlueSky Ratings, BlueSky’s review of the top seven online brokers in seven European countries, provides private investors with an Overall Rating for functionality, channels, products, information and tools offered by each broker, as well as a Customer Service Rating to identify which brokers answer the phone or email accurately and quickly, and a Usability Rating to identify sites that are easier to use and understand. The list of the Top 7 online brokers in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Italy and Spain are published as the BlueSky Ratings for free, public use, and permit a direct cross-border comparison of the services and features offered by the best online brokers in Europe.

“In the June 2001 BlueSky Ratings for Italy, IMIweb holds onto their number one overall place because of the extent of its tools, information, products and access to foreign markets. However, it’s Comdirect Italia that beats IMIweb for the number one Customer Service rating with better scores for answering phone and email enquiries, and Banca Sella that scores highest for Usability,” explained Suzan Nolan. “Some sites that were in the Top 7 in January have been dropped from the list because of critical usability errors or customer service lapses, such as Xelion or Intesatrade which could not provide an internationally accessible phone number for customers who may be travelling on business or for holidays outside of Italy. To not be available “anytime, anywhere” misses our fundamental requirement of sites being convenient for the customer to use,” she added.

“In the June 2001 BlueSky Ratings for Europe, Comdirect Germany continues to hold onto the number one place in Europe overall by offering an extensive range of information, products, channels, tools, features and better than average customer service response. However, in terms of the Usability Rating, it’s a brand new site – Merrill Lynch HSBC in the UK – that takes the lead over Comdirect and other established players like UBS and Credit Suisse and demonstrates how the “next generation” of online brokerage sites will be focusing on ease of use and other user experience aspects to help convince the “next generation” of customers to invest online,” Suzan Nolan continued. “For email and phone service, Comdirect in the UK led the Europeans because they were able to get it right 86% of the time, which while not a perfect score, was better than most and well above the worst case among the finalists which got customer service right only 22% of the time. The “defective” rates on email and phone response are unacceptably high particularly now that the bull market is over and people care about more than just making a low-cost trade online”

BlueSky has been independently rating European banking sites and brokering sites since early 1997. BlueSky has consistently awarded more points to sites that are the most comprehensive in terms of products, tools and information, and that provide the best customer service and user experience for Internet share trading, with a bias towards convenience for the customer. This means that sites that offer a larger choice of brokerage and banking products, information, tools and multiple channels along with superior customer service will rate more highly than an execution-only broker that offers little or no added-value information and permits trading of equities only through the internet.

Every four months, BlueSky reviews over 3,000 financial service sites in Europe to select 12 Internet brokerage sites in each country that offer the best overall transactional features and functions, information, interactive capabilities, product mix and tools. The 12 sites are reviewed a second time and the seven best sites are selected and put through a final series of six tests in the six categories described in the Methodology below. The ratings period takes approximately 6 weeks: all service calls are done during the same 7 – 10 day time period and with the same questions in each country to fairly measure service and response levels.

The list of the BlueSky Ratings Top 15 European Online Brokers for June 2001 can be found below for Top 15 Overall, and are then ranked by Email & Phone Service and for Usability. The complete country-by-country BlueSky Ratings for June 2001 can be found in the Brokers section of the www.EuropeanInvestor.com web site, and on the www.tradeineuros.com site. The BlueSky Ratings cover the top seven online brokers in seven European countries. Eight key decision points are compared for each, such as the number of international markets traded, IPO and mutual fund offerings, trading languages and residency requirements. The cost of commissions is also compared, but does not count in the ratings. An explanation of the methodology and criteria used for the ratings can be found below or on www.europeaninvestor.com/EIC/Brokers/BlueSky_Ratings/


     
 

The Top 15 European eBrokers
According to the
June 2001 BlueSky Ratings
30/06/01
30.06.00
30.09.00
31.01.01
Ranking
%
Broker Country
Points
Rank
Points
Rank Points
Rank
1
88.54
=
Comdirect bank .de
50.9
1
53.4
1
56.5
1
2
82.56
Direkt Anlage Bank .de
47.5
4
51.3
3
51.5
6
3
79.56
ebankinter.com .es
40.7
7
48.9
5
52.0
5
4
78.57
Patagon.es (OpenValue) .es
39.2
8
42.0
9
50.0
8
5
78.37
IMIWEB .it
38.3
9
40.2
11
44.0
10
6
75.99
UBS .ch
45.9
5
47.7
6
52.0
4
7
75.61 Maxblue .de
-
-
-
-
-
-
8
74.57 E*Trade .uk
-
-
-
-
-
-
9
73.61
Banesto .es
36.8
13
n.d.
--
41.5
15
10
73.27
ConSors .de
50.3
2
51.9
2
54.5
2
11
71.90
Banca Sella .it
-
--
39.3
13
-
-
12
71.72 Schwab .uk
-
-
-
-
-
-
13
71.53 Maxblue .es
-
-
-
-
-
-
14
70.70
Self Trade .fr
38.2
10
40.1
12
42.5
11
15
70.34 Fimatex .fr
-
-
-
-
-
-

 
Brokerage 24 .de
50.1
3
50.1
4
54.0
3
 
Credit Suisse Direct Net .ch
37.6
11
41.3
10
51.0
7
 
Entrium Direct Bankers .de
36.6
14
45.8
7
49.0
9
 
SelfTrade.es .es
n.d.
--
39.0
15
42.5
12
 
DB24Net.es .es
n.d.
--
39.2
14
42.0
13
 
Alex .nl
n.d.
--
n.d.
--
42.0
14
   
ebanking.com .be/.lu
42.4
6
44.1
8
   
 
BBVA net plus .es
37.0
12
     
 
ConSors .fr
36.4
15
     


BlueSky’s eBroker Rating Methodology

BlueSky rates brokerage sites in six separate categories. By adding these six categories together BlueSky produces an “Overall Rating”:

Category 1.) Transaction ability (17% of the overall rating) To qualify for BlueSky’s broker rating sites must first offer basic brokerage transactional ability for equities. BlueSky awards points progressively to online brokers who additionally offer fund trading online, IPO trading online as well as online banking. By offering all four categories of transactions brokers are the capable of achieving all the points in this category or 17% of the total overall rating. Fewer points are awarded in this category if brokers only offer one or two of the listed transactional services.

Category 2.) Channel ability (5% of overall rating) BlueSky awards points to brokers who provide various channels through which to get information and do transactions. For example, if a broker offers channels that include phone brokering, WAP, PDA, SMS, IVR, touch tone, and alerts, they will achieve the maximum number of points for channels which accounts for 5% of the total score. Brokers score progressively higher in this category by offering more channels.

Category 3.) Specialized products, information, tools and research (16% of overall rating) Specialized products include warrants and bonds, and specialized information and tools includes elements like a fund centre, IPO area, frequent trader area, educational area, as well as research reports, market briefs, other tools and information centres including broadband presentations. The information section comprises 16% of the “Overall Rating” .

Category 4.) Multiple stock markets and multiple fund selling ability (10% of overall rating) Brokers are rewarded on their ability to sell equities on multiple international exchanges and on their ability to sell multiple funds. The percentage of the final score is 10%. Brokers receive higher scores by offering more exchanges and by offering more and better-organized funds on their sites.

Category 5.) E Mail and Phone service (26% of overall rating) This is perhaps one of the more important categories to measure quality in since Internet brokerage customers need information about products, services and functionalities on sites given the complexities of online brokerage sites and making investment decisions. The total score in this section comprises 26% of the “Overall Rating.”

(Note: If the eBroker could not give a phone number that could be accessed internationally (outside the home country) they were automatically excluded from the Top 7 because they do not conform with BlueSky’s “anytime, anywhere” convenience requirement.)

During the same 7 – 10 day period, BlueSky places 20 anonymous calls, and during the ratings period sends 20 anonymous emails to each broker asking each the same a series of questions about security, trading, products and services. BlueSky researchers measure the quality, accuracy and helpfulness qualities of the answers, as well as the time – whether seconds or days – that it takes to answer questions.

Category 6.) BlueSky User Experience & Usability (26% percent of overall rating) BlueSky measures user experience for the following six criteria:
1. Complete and detailed information.
2. Easy and clear navigation.
3. Clear and complete instructions.
4. Consideration for new users.
5. Consistent look and design and interface.
6. Transaction ability.
7. Relationship building and interactivity.
8. Sales support.
9. Cross-selling of products ability.
10. Promotions.
11. Product and service benefits.
12. Other non-brokering online information like education.
13. Features and quality of the service as demonstrated online.

BlueSky does not factor price into the ratings because a customer’s sense of value for money cannot be determined by price alone.


About BlueSky International

BlueSky International Marketing Inc., a financial services research and consulting company, is the leader in providing accurate facts and insight about the international Internet to financial services companies, world wide, since 1997. BlueSky’s original research and analysis identifies competitive opportunities, provides industry benchmarks, anticipates key trends and compares market direction on the Internet across multiple countries in Europe, North America, Asia-Pacific and Latin America. BlueSky Ratings™ is the first independent, cross-border Internet rating service that helps people find the online broker offer and service that’s best for them. For more information see www.blueskyinc.com



For more information about the ratings or to arrange an interview please contact:
Suzan Nolan or Walter Bazar
BlueSky International
Telephone
Paris: +331 53 59 39 47
suzan@blueskyinc.com
BlueSky International Tel: +331 53 59 39 47
Fax: +331 53 59 39 48
www.blueskyinc.com


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