MSN MoneyCentral Inks Deals With Financial Heavyweights

While Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) is being pushed to the limit by the U.S. Justice Department in its ongoing epic lawsuit, life goes on, “business as usual” for the Redmond, Washington-based software giant.

For example, the company announced Wednesday that its MSN MoneyCentral, a personal finance Web site, signed agreements with American Express, Charles Schwab & Company, Bank of America and Citigroup that calls for the financial institutions to provide tailored content on the MSN MoneyCentral site.

Calling them “premier financial providers,” Microsoft said the four will join Merrill Lynch — which signed a similar agreement last fall — in helping to customize the site for users, by providing content tailored to their individual financial interests. There was no mention of the financial considerations of the agreements.

MSN MoneyCentral introduced the Premier Financial Provider Program in November of last year. The company says that content providers have complete control over the information they provide through integrated content clips, allowing them to reach consumers with specific information and special offers and promotions.

“The Premier Financial Provider program is unlike any distribution opportunity on the Web today,” said Microsoft executive, Rich Bray. “By offering consumers a choice in how, when and where they obtain financial know-how, we’re also opening up tremendous marketing opportunities for our participating financial institutions.”

A Crowded Field

MSN MoneyCentral has the backing of perhaps the most powerful American company since John J. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil and J.P. Morgan’s bank, but times have changed and the Internet is becoming the great equalizer.

There are a plethora of personal finance sites out on the Web now and surely more to come. While this latest agreement with five powerful financial institutions is a feather in MSN MoneyCentral’s cap, it is by no means unique.

In May, America Online signed an agreement with five leading banks to offer their services on the site’s Banking Center. Other personal finance sites are signing up marketing partners at a dizzying clip.

The success of online stock trading is well documented, but online banking is quietly building to a crescendo as well. An International Data Corp. report issued in February estimates that some 1,200 U.S. banks and credit unions were online in 1998, and an additional 6,000 will join them this year. It’s estimated that over 24 million households will be banking online by 2003.

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