New York-based iAnalyst was officially launched today, although it has been in beta for several weeks. Subscribers can chat with full-time analysts during market hours. The analysts, who are employed by the firm and specialize in technology stocks, also will issue research reports that are available to subscribers.
iAnalyst will remain free until Aug. 31, when the company plans to charge $14.95 a month for unlimited, direct access to the analysts.
Although some traditional brokerage firms such as JP Morgan already offer their customers access to analysts, iAnalyst said it is the first to offer public access to analysts.
"They're not the Mary Meekers or the Henry Blodgets," said iAnalyst CEO Tin Albano, referring to well-known analysts from Morgan Stanley Dean Witter and Merrill Lynch. "But they have to have an MBA or a financially related graduate degree such as economics, for instance. We're looking for people with at least two to three years of experience."
iAnalyst's professionals offer advice slightly different than that found on sites such as Stockmaster.com and iExchange.com, which allow individual investors to swap investment advice and reports from each other.
iAnalyst's professionals also cater their reports and responses to individuals, rather than institutional investors. "We're having the analysts come onboard and do the same fundamental research that they would do in (an investment bank) but directed at the individual," Albano said.
The potential market for such advice is large and growing, according to International Data Corp. (IDC). At the end of 1999, 7.1 million households held online trading accounts. IDC analyst Shaw Lively says the trend in personal finance Web sites is moving toward more personalized advice.
"The marketplace as a whole is definitely moving to offer advice," Lively said. "iAnalyst is trying to take the best of the online world and make available the best of the human world. That's a pretty strong model."
Considering that iAnalyst currently has just four analysts, visitors could face delays in receiving answers to their queries. Earlier today, a message posted on the site warned of a two-minute wait for responses from analysts. After the close of regular trading, analysts are no longer available.
Albano said no user should have to wait more than 15 minutes. He is looking to employ 12 to 15 analysts by the end of the year.
Before founding iAnalyst in 1999, Albano started Web development company esync Media. Previously, he worked as managing editor of PC Magazine Online.
Co-founder and COO Yuki Kanaya was a hedge fund analyst at Hennessee Group. Before that she managed a $250 million client base for Sanford C. Bernstein & Co.