Stockbrokers rise to the US challenge

The Hi-Tech Investor

Long-established British stockbrokers are trying to see off the American threat with their ownreal-time, online sharedealing services. James Brearley's service, Icon, is not being backed by anything likethe marketing muscle deployed by US newcomer E*Trade, but in many ways the services are equals.

Long-established British stockbrokers are trying to see off the American threat with their ownreal-time, online sharedealing services. James Brearley's service, Icon, is not being backed by anything likethe marketing muscle deployed by US newcomer E*Trade, but in many ways the services are equals.

Icon does not offer the cheapest dealing services but its pricing structure is simple and it can work outbetter value. James Brearley charges a flat fee of £20 per trade. This compares with a minimum feeof £14.95 from E*Trade on deals up to £1,500. For larger transactions, E*Trade's fee risesto £24.95, but it falls back to £14.95 for frequent traders. On this basis, Icon could be anattractive option for investors who buy or sell larger numbers of shares less often.

James Brearley's site was developed with Interactive Markets, a subsidiary of the Interactive Investorwebsite. The site has some nice touches, such as a visual countdown bar that shows how long a quotedprice is valid. The interface itself is a little cluttered, with several windows displaying data.

James Brearley will soon add a portfolio monitoring service to Icon as well as administrative support,including dividend statements and capital gains tax calculations.

Some investors will take comfort from the fact that firms such as James Brearley are establishedstockbrokers who have been in the business for many years.

The next few weeks will see even stiffer competition for the traditional broking houses. The US discountbroker DLJ Direct is widely tipped to launch a UK internet service. The Halifax also plans to launchinternet stockbroking next month..

James Brearley & Sons, www.jbrearley.co.uk; DLJ, www.dljdirect.com; Halifax, www.halifax.co.ukk

Widows' ISA

INTERNET investors who prefer an index tracking fund to selecting their own shares should visit theScottish Widows website. The insurance company has joined the small but growing band of fundmanagers and investment houses offering individual savings accounts (ISAs) over the net.

Scottish Widows' first online ISA is a UK index tracker that meets the Government's CAT mark forcharges. Investors with a debit card can take out an ISA online without the need for a written application orsignature.

Scottish Widows, www.scottishwidows.co.uk

Stephen Pritchard can be contacted at: Hi-tech-investor@dial.pipex.com

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