1998 was indeed merry -- and memorable -- for administrators of
the U.S. Treasury Departmentís TreasuryDirect
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.
was that so significant?
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
TreasuryDirect is more direct than ever before.
Lewis is with the Bureau of the Public Debt, U.S. Department of
the Treasury. You may reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.