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DLJdirect moves into the "real" world

The online arm of investment bank Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette will open a brick-and-mortar store in affluent Boca Raton, Fla., on Monday.

DLJdirect, the online arm of investment bank Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette, will open a brick-and-mortar store in affluent Boca Raton, Fla., on Monday, the first of several offline branches the company plans to unveil.

The offline store is part of DLJdirect's campaign to attract well-heeled investors by increasing the number of customer services and boosting the firm's offline profile, according to DLJdirect spokeswoman Linda Finnerty. But why does the Internet unit of an offline firm need a physical store?

The reason is that DLJdirect, which ranks among the top 10 online brokerage firms, is targeting a different investor than the one its parent company caters to. Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette offers consulting and financial management services primarily to upscale investors who prefer to have a professional direct their investments.

"The DLJdirect audience is also a high-net-worth investor, but one who is self-directed," Finnerty said.

Stock trades made over the Internet are skyrocketing, up 69 percent in the first quarter, U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray said yesterday. The firm also reported that the amount of money held in Web brokerage accounts has topped $1 trillion for the first time.

Although most Net brokers are vying for hoards of new investors, many of whom trade often, DLJdirect, based in Jersey City, N.J., said it will continue to go after a niche clientele. The company said it wants the business of investors who keep $100,000 or more in their accounts.

Finnerty said launching the Boca Raton office was a way of offering customers the option of going offline to conduct transactions, as well as a way to market to potential new customers.

Investors can make trades, drop off checks, or get advice from one of the three DLJdirect brokers who will be working out of the office, Finnerty said.

"We did client research and they told us that they wanted to have the option of conducting business in person," Finnerty said. "The bottom line is that some customers want a human element and higher level of personal service when it comes to investing."