Fancy making a million from your bedroom?

Online share dealing is proving to be a quick and easy alternative to the stockbroker

It is simple and cheap to deal online, with the benefit for execution-only deals that the best brokers' websites are backed up by stacks of excellent market information. Online share dealing has proved so popular in the US that is has ripped the heart out of traditional stockbrokers' businesses.

It is simple and cheap to deal online, with the benefit for execution-only deals that the best brokers' websites are backed up by stacks of excellent market information. Online share dealing has proved so popular in the US that is has ripped the heart out of traditional stockbrokers' businesses.

Brokers in the UK, too, have slashed charges to clients using the internet. Where charges are typically £20 for a deal conducted by phone, it can be half that with the Net. At peak trading times it can be impossible to get through to some brokers by phone - usually it is quick and easy to do so using a PC.

Many of the best sites are provided by US brokers whose businesses have already been transformed by moving online - these include TD Waterhouse, Charles Schwab and E*Trade. But Barclays Stockbrokers and Hargreaves Lansdown also offer excellent sites, as does Halifax for the new trader.

It is noticeable that since the takeover of NatWest by the Royal Bank of Scotland, its website is being improved - but not all the facilities of the share dealing service are currently available online.

Online share dealing is a fast moving activity. Many of the sites are constantly being changed, and some face competing pressures on them. It is helpful to have cleanly designed and simple to navigate sites, but frequent traders also value rich sources of market information online - the presence of which sometimes clutters websites. Patience may be needed to access some sites.

Another continuing development is the increasing numbers of brokers offering share dealing facilities in overseas exchanges.

While some, like Halifax, trade only in London, others, like NatWest, have recently extended onto Nasdaq. Some, like Sharepeople, allow dealing in New York, too, and E-Cortal provides the opportunity to deal in a range of European exchanges. FasTrade allows users to deal in a range of exchanges around the world. The opportunity to trade in many exchanges worldwide is likely to be offered by an increasing number of brokers over the coming months.

There remain sharp differences between stockbrokers on the type of clients they specialise in. The high street banks, such as Halifax, Barclays and NatWest, are more customer friendly in the sense that payments can be made by direct debits or by debit card. Some others, such as REDM and InvestIn, are only available to account holders. Several brokers - including TD Waterhouse - operate on lower dealing fees for regular traders.

Online share dealing is a fast-moving area and it pays to revisit sites to see which dealer most fits your personal requirements. There is now such a wide choice that most tastes should be catered for.

Paul Gosling is the author of 'Changing Money', published by Bowerdean, on the impact of the Web on financial services

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