By Ron Lewis
1998 was indeed merry -- and memorable -- for administrators of
the U.S. Treasury Departmentís TreasuryDirect
In the wee
hours of the morning on Saturday, Dec. 26, while brokers and bankers
and the rest of the nation were sleeping, an investor in Brooklyn,
N.Y., acting without anyone elseís help or knowledge, reinvested
a $20,000 Treasury bill.
Why was that
It was the
one millionth time a TreasuryDirect customer had made
a reinvestment electronically -- via the Internet or phone -- a
convenient, self-service option that didnít exist just a year and
a half earlier.
For those who
run the program, the investment was an accomplishment worth celebrating.
For outsiders in related businesses, it is a landmark worth considering.
Through an aggressive and expanding array of e-commerce services,
TreasuryDirect is helping to redefine customer convenience
and set new standards for operational efficiency.
by the Treasury Departmentís Bureau of the Public Debt, TreasuryDirect
is a book-entry securities system in which buyers of Treasury
bills, notes, and bonds establish and maintain accounts directly
with the U.S. Treasury. For a decade following the programís start
in 1986, customer transactions were performed on ink and paper;
then, in late 1997, officials began implementing what they thought
must be a better way to do business. The first service to go electronic
was reinvestments. They were offered on the toll-free phone line
in August 1997 and were introduced on the Internet in June 1998.
At the same
time reinvestments went on the web, Public Debt began offering on
the Internet three conveniences it had implemented on the phone
in February 1998; these services enable investors to check their
account balances as well as order statements of account and duplicate
1099-INT tax forms. Finally, in September 1998, the Buy Direct
initiative gave TreasuryDirect customers the option of purchasing
securities on the web and phone.
The sum of
it all is this: today, with a few clicks of a mouse or with the
dialing of a toll-free phone number, TreasuryDirect customers
not only can buy Treasury bills, notes, and bonds from the comfort
and security of their homes and offices, but can perform in the
same simple manner many of the routine functions needed to maintain
their accounts. Those arenít the only benefits. On the back end
of the equation, the governmentís processing of these transactions
requires less manpower than ever. Computers do the bulk of the work.
Still in their
infancy, TreasuryDirect Electronic Services enjoy wonderful
popularity. Those one million reinvestments in 16 months equal more
than 2,000 per day. Also, though investors who participated in a
recent survey expressed reluctance to buy securities over the Internet
or phone, the fact is that more people buy TreasuryDirect
products through electronic means than by visiting any of the countryís
36 Federal Reserve Banks.
is more direct than ever before.
Ron Lewis is
with the Bureau of the Public Debt, U.S. Department of the Treasury.
You may reach him at email@example.com.