- The Washington Times - Monday, April 3, 2000

Georgetown company StockGift Corp.'s new Web site, StockGift.com (www.stockgift.com), offers an interesting way for consumers to acquire on-line brokerage accounts.

While planning his own wedding, company President Gino Heilizer and his wife Christina faced the realization that many couples face in that they already owned many of the usual wedding gifts, but were uncomfortable asking for what they really wanted more security for their future.

"Savings bonds have been a traditional financial gift for babies and newlyweds because they are as easy as walking down to the local bank to give," Mr. Heilizer said.

"The unfortunate issue is that the return on the bond is sub par to the returns found on the stock market. Also, savings bonds are tied to inflation and on a historical average do not return what the stock market has. So while it has been acceptable, it is not necessarily the best value."

Recognizing the popular concept of gift registration at stores, Mr. Heilizer began to research gift giving, learning that 85 percent of all engaged couples (Stern Marketing Group/1998) register for wedding gifts.

StockGift.com endeavors to bridge the gap between the desire to give stock and the prohibitive costs involved by creating a process that allows persons to register for up to four securities, either funds or stocks. The individual then alerts family and friends either through e-mail or mailed announcements that are part of the service.

Gift givers can then use a credit card on the Web site or mail in a check. All dollar amounts are then pooled together and allocated equally between the chosen securities.

The broker only allows individuals to register for up to four securities per event and will not accept any penny stocks, margin accounts, load mutual funds or options. The service only offers no-load mutual funds like Janus (www.janus.com), Vanguard (www.vanguard.com) and T. Rowe Price (www.troweprice.com) funds.

Transactions are $19.95 each and with the four securities limit, StockGift.com is not looking for any huge profits in the foreseeable future.

"We set this up to be as simple and cost-effective as we could," Mr. Heilizer said. "It is because this service was created for my sister, a second grade teacher who knows nothing about stocks, that I offer a limited number of items. This limits our revenues but is better for the consumer."

Once an account becomes active, the individual monitors their portfolio and StockGift.com does not provide advice, nor will it monitor an investor's account making suggestions to buy or sell securities much like any other on-line brokerage firm.

"The most sensitive issue that we were faced with was the need to take something complicated as to the amount and type of information required and make it very easy for the user," said David Lentz, lead developer of the site. "The site had to be created so that it would incorporate behavioral aspects into the technological so that it would allow us to get the best information as easy as possible."

StockGift.com feels its concept of pooling and collecting information allowing customers to register and receive stock gifts is so unique that it has filed for three service-based patents.

A small firm of less than a handful of employees, Stock Gift Corp. has entered a market in which a growing number of on-line brokerages are attracting Americans at a fast pace. In 1998, on-line brokerage firms traded $480 billion worth of securities, a 17 percent increase over 1997.

"The cost to acquire brokerage accounts on the Internet is running from $250 to $700 each," said Mr. Heilizer. "E-Trade (www.etrade.com) last quarter clocked in at $238 and DLJ (www.dlj.com) was at $700."

Currently, the StockGift.com reports an average of 1,000 visitors per day and 50 registered users within its first 30 days of operation.

"We have started to attract attention without having to support the Superbowl," Mr. Heilizer said. "Marketing the site is part of the future business plan as we acquire angel and institutional funding, but so far the cost to acquire each of those accounts has been zero."

Have an interesting site? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at the Business Browser, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send e-mail ([email protected]).

Site of the Week: STOCKGIFT.COM

Site address: www.stockgift.com

Recommended user group: Persons celebrating life milestones that might be receiving gifts.

What's to like? The entire concept of StockGift.com is appealing for both the gift giver and receiver. The financial entrance to the stock market can be overwhelming, and StockGift.com does allow individuals to easily pool cash gifts into an investment portfolio.

For the gift giver, a present of stock does provide a feeling of added future value that can be an extremely positive start for newly wed or newly born.

What's not to like? StockGift.com may be a solidly conceived and built Web site and it provides an excellent alternative for the stock-savvy. However, for the person testing the investment world for the first time, StockGift.com could be misleading. The site states repeatedly that the company is an on-line brokerage firm and offers no investment suggestions, yet I can foresee someone thinking this is a great idea but not knowing how to manage the account and then having sour grapes about losing their new baby's college fund.

Plenty of links to go around: The site offers general investment information through links to financial e-magazines like Motley Fool (www.fool.com) and Smart Money Magazine (www.smartmoney.com). Some other sources that should provide the information an investor needs to confidently invest are:

The Kipplinger Report (www.kipplinger.com) is a daily read for anyone that pays taxes, invests or just wants to learn more about the financial world. The site features content from numerous publications including Kipplinger's Magazine, Mutual Funds 2000, Cars 2000 and the Kipplinger Letters. With the popularity of fund investing, Kipplinger's Mutual Fund Tools and Fund Research Center are must reads before that first buy.

Investor Home (www.investorhome.com) is a great place to quickly link to over 50 different money-related Web sites. From this jumping-off place, users can find links to the Bloomberg, Forbes or Hoover reports, check out Vanguard Funds or learn a bit more about the "Bulls and the Bears," of Wall Street, not Chicago.

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