E*Trade Enters Promising German Market

Online banking and brokerage company E*Trade (NYSE: ET) is bringing its services to the largest market in Europe, with the launch Thursday of an online investing site aimed at German consumers.

A July study by Jupiter Media Metrix singled out Germany as the place to be for Internet-based financial companies, saying Web sites offering online stock purchases and market information are more popular there than the sites of traditional banks.

The German venture is the fifth European foray for Menlo Park, California-based E*Trade, which has been moving fast to broaden its offerings in a shrinking market for consumer stock-trading services.

E*Trade said the launch is a “key initiative” in its European expansion and part of its overall diversification strategy.

Autumn Abroad

“Entering the German market is a vital milestone in advancing our vision of a single technology platform,” said Joshua Levine, chief technology officer and managing director for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Germany accounts for 49 percent of the online brokerage accounts in the major European markets, E*Trade said, citing statistics compiled by JP Morgan. E*Trade services are already available in Denmark, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom, as well as Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan and Korea.

The company did not say how much it is spending to enter the German market. Rivals Ameritrade (Nasdaq: AMTD) and Charles Schwab (NYSE: SCH) have not so far set up sites there.

Overall, European consumers appear quicker to take to the Web for banking and financial services than their American counterparts. The Jupiter Media Metrix study found that more than 20 million European consumers were visiting business and financial Web sites.

Branching Out

E*Trade said German investors will be able to use its new site to invest in multiple markets with multi-currency accounts. The site will be available in both German and English.

“E*Trade has simplified the investing process by providing an easier way for German investors to take control of their financial future,” Levine said.

The site will provide investors with in-depth information on German and U.S. markets, streaming real-time prices, and some “advanced” features that for the most part have been available only to institutional traders, E*Trade said. There will be three account packages offered, based on the level of information and tools required.

E*Trade, which has been branching out with kiosks in Target (NYSE: TGT) retail stores, posted an operating profit in its latest fiscal quarter.

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