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BELLEVUE, Wash. – As former CU dot.com firms CU Shopper, MembersResources.com and Total One can attest to, the Internet space wasn’t exactly friendly for fledgling tech firms in the late `90s, but ShareBuilder leaders say they believed so much in their model they’re not surprised how things turned out. ShareBuilder was founded in 1996 on one very simple concept – giving everyone access to equity investments. E*Trade and others revolutionalized the concept of letting individuals become their own stock brokers online, but ShareBuilder had a twist on that concept. “The focus for us is still the emerging investor, we make it easier for them,” said David Lawrence, director of strategic partnerships for ShareBuilder. He said ShareBuilder removes the financial obstacles to do-it-yourself online investing by allowing people to invest for as little as $2 per trade (done via automatic investment), while having no account minimums, no investment minimums and no inactivity fees. Through this affordability it encourages automatic investing, or so-called dollar cost averaging, where a consumer invests a set amount of money on the same day each month. Market and Limit orders are more on par price-wise with other online brokerage firms. ShareBuilder is essentially an online trading service for the fledgling investor who may have thought the stock market was too difficult or expensive to invest in, said Lawrence. “It’s such an educational tool. So many people I run into say they wish they had a way to get into the market when they were young. This product is the great leveler. You don’t have to have an advisor,” said Lawrence. Since January of 2000 more than 800,000 consumers have signed up for the service. So just what does the typical ShareBuilder investor look like? It varies of course, but Lawrence said they are usually of median household income, around the $60,000 range; approximately 38% of customers are women; and 60% are between 25 to 44 years of age. For almost half of its customers (48%), ShareBuilder is their first brokerage account. Lawrence took a chance on ShareBuilder himself. He was heading up AEA Credit Union’s investment CUSO, Advantage Resources (a NACUSO of the Year winner while Lawrence was there), when he learned about the product. After he got it up and running at Advantage Resources he made the jump to a career with ShareBuilder. “It was an exciting move. We didn’t expect the market (dot.com) to go South the way it did, but watching this product withstand that was great,” said Lawrence. Here’s where ShareBuilder stands today in the credit union market. It has 140 credit union clients, including nine of the top 15 and 13 of the top 20 credit unions by assets. Some of its larger CU clients include Boeing Employees CU, Pentagon FCU, State Employees CU of North Carolina, and others. “We’ve enjoyed success across the board from the largest to smallest credit unions,” said Lawrence, who as a former industry player knows that is important for widespread adoption. ShareBuilder is also big in the banking market, with Wells Fargo being one of its more notable clients. It has five of the top 20 banks as clients, and approximately 200 financial institution clients in total. It also has about 1,000 Web sites offering the service. The company is still privately held and employs 115 people. Its investors range from large banks like Wells Fargo and Washington Mutual to insurance companies like Safeco. Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs is also a private investor. First Tech CU, Beaverton, Ore., the only CU investor, has a small stake in the company. Lawrence said the service isn’t just for new investors. “We think the experience of ShareBuilder will keep people with the product. Experienced investors who graduate to full-service and advisory services can still use ShareBuilder to dabble in the market on their own,” said Lawrence. To drum up some new users, ShareBuilder has a new sweepstakes offering CU members and bank customers the chance to win a new plasma TV or $1,000 in cash just by investing via ShareBuilder at any of 30 participating financials. As part of its new promotion, ShareBuilder will also give members a $15 bonus for conducing a ShareBuilder transaction from now until Oct. 30. [email protected]

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