Tech Industry

E*Trade launches advice site

Customers of the online brokerage, who typically make their own investment decisions, can now receive counsel from the company through E*Trade Advisor.

Online brokerage E*Trade wants to give customers a little advice.

The Menlo Park, Calif.-based company, which has built its services around allowing customers to make their own investment decisions, is launching a new investment and planning advice Web site. Through the site, called E*Trade Advisor, customers will have access to electronic planning tools and personal advice from Ernst & Young financial planners.

With stock trading dipping along with the slump in the market, times have been tough for online brokers. Many have sold out to competitors, while those that have remained, such as E*Trade, have been trying to diversify their offerings.

In recent months, E*Trade bought market maker Dempsey, opened an online mortgage service, launched E*Trade Pro for its most active traders, and announced plans to open "E*Trade Zones" in 22 Target stores around the country.

The company's diversification and expansion seem to be paying off: The online brokerage posted a fourth-quarter profit of $24.7 million, or 7 cents per share, on Monday.

Only E*Trade's top-end U.S. customers--those with more than $100,000 in their E*Trade accounts--will be able to use the advice site initially. The company plans to open the site to all of its customers later this quarter.

E*Trade's top-end customers will be able to access the advice site for free. The company will charge other customers about $99 for a year's worth of access to the service, company representatives said. The company will also charge on a per-meeting basis for contact with Ernst & Young planners, but company representatives did not know how much the charges will be.

The site is designed to recommend a set of mutual funds to customers based on each customer's financial information and investment goals.