NEW YORK - The Internet has been a tremendous boon even for Fidelity Investments of Boston, the nation's No. 1 fund company, because it has raised Fidelity's awareness throughout the country, said Peter Costa, vice president, interactive content at Fidelity.

Unlike any other marketing effort that preceded it, the Internet has enabled investors to learn that Fidelity "is more than a very large fund company with one very large fund called Magellan. This was so perfectly reflected a few years ago by a call from an investor asking for Magelity,'" Costa said.

"The web has taken us a long way with respect to raising customers' collective consciousness," Costa said.

Costa spoke here at a conference on marketing and distributing mutual funds online, sponsored by International Communications for Management Group of Chicago.

Today, Fidelity has nearly 500 people dedicated to its web site, which consists of more than 3,800 pages, Costa said. Between 1995 and 1999, Fidelity spent $500 million a year upgrading technology, with much of that money going to the web, he said.

The resulting encyclopedic web site has enabled the public to learn about all of the many investment products Fidelity offers - from access to initial public offerings to insurance - and has brought the firm new assets and new customers, Costa said.

The web has been a central component of Fidelity's "new branding effort, to showcase Fidelity as the premier investment company, with unsurpassed money management expertise," Costa said.

"Fidelity offers one of the largest web sites, complete with detailed information going beyond anything a shareholder could possibly look for," said Stephen Miyao, senior vice president at kasina, an electronic commerce consulting company in New York. "The web is critical, even for a big company like Fidelity, because it reinforces the brand and enables investors to learn about their products," Miyao said.

Besides serving as a learning tool, Fidelity's web site has also become a convenience for Fidelity investors, Costa said. Today, 85 percent of Fidelity's stock trades are handled online through the Fidelity Powerstreet brokerage and 40 percent of Fidelity's mutual fund transactions are online, according to a Fidelity spokesperson.

Going forward, Fidelity hopes to answer the increasing appetite for advice, Costa said.

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