The age of free financial advice is in our sites

What used to cost £50 now costs nothing, but beware the curse of the bulletin board. By Robin Amlÿt

It is far too soon to describe the Internet as a mature medium but it is now firmly established. It is also proving to be a significant factor in driving down the costs faced by us as individual investors looking for information and analysis on which to base our investment decisions.

It is far too soon to describe the Internet as a mature medium but it is now firmly established. It is also proving to be a significant factor in driving down the costs faced by us as individual investors looking for information and analysis on which to base our investment decisions.

A couple of years ago you would have had to pay up to £50 a month to access the quality of material now routinely offered free by many websites, including historical price data together with powerful charting tools and calculators. Several sites also now offer portfolio management tools which make redundant software packages which would have cost you hundreds of pounds not very long ago.

The world wide web contains millions of pages of information. Fortunately for our sanity, we can ignore most of it and concentrate on the relative handful of websites which are really useful. The two longest-established personal finance websites which are aimed at UK investors, Moneyworld and Interactive Investor, are also among the best. These two have been online since 1995 and have grown considerably from their relatively humble beginnings. Both are also now receiving substantial investment.

In November 1998, the venture capital firm Hollinger Digital, part of Conrad Black's Hollinger Group invested several million pounds in Interactive Investor in return for an equity stake. Last month, Moneyworld was purchased by The Exchange for a total of £9-million in cash and shares.

Both Moneyworld and Interactive Investor aim to cover all personal finance issues and both are worth a regular look. Few other sites match either of them for depth and breadth of coverage. Interactive Investor has been developing transaction channels with links to product providers while Moneyworld has been concentrating on providing information and analysis.

However, following the takeover by The Exchange, which has its own website MoneyeXtra, which we will return to shortly, Moneyworld is likely to add transaction channels.

Among the competition, the Motley Fool UK stands out. This website was established in 1997 as an offshoot of an existing US-based investment website. This year it picked up the New Media Age 1999 Best Finance Site and Creative Freedom Awards 1999 Best Electronic Media. This is another site worth visiting on a regular basis but it is also one which has fallen victim to the curse of the bulletin board.

The bulletin board, message board, chat room or forum, whatever the site you visit calls it, can be a great way of finding out what other people think about corporate performance and share prices. They are also a great way of being caught out by somebody who is trying to manipulate a share price by starting false rumours. If you remember that you do not know who has written the message you are reading and that you do not know what their personal agenda is, you should not be taken for a ride.

The Motley Fool UK was the first UK-based website to have its message board abused in such a way. It has not been the last. Among the more extreme examples, in July, Dialog shares fell by 7 per cent in one day as a result of a message posted on the Hemmington Scott website. The company forced a retraction and apology from Hemmington Scott and the banning of the message writer.

MoneyExtra was The Exchange's debut in direct dealings with individuals. The organization was originally established and its main business continues to be as a transaction channel for independent financial advisors. However, the website MoneyeXtra, which is a joint venture with Microsoft, has the best coverage of Individual Savings Accounts and their providers. It is also the only website among these generalists which is regulated under the Financial Services Act. This means it can sell investment products directly from the website although it doesn't yet.

For beginners, Moneyworld or the Motley Fool UK are probably the best place to start. Unless you are interested only in shares rather than unit and investment trusts as well, Moneyworld may have the edge thanks to its Powersearch facility which allows you to review fund performance using a variety of criteria defined by sector and time period.

If you have a clearer idea of what you want to put your money into outside the stockmarket then Interactive Investor's various "Centres" are worth checking out but if it is an ISA you are thinking about and you want to find out what's on offer, be it shares or cash, maxi or mini, go to MoneyeXtra.

Moneyworld, Interactive Investor and the Motley Fool UK all carry share price data and regularly updated stock market reports as does UK-iNvest, the investment channel of Freeserve, which now offers live rather than delayed share prices. If you sign up for the "club" services offered by these sites they will also send you regular e-mails with daily market reports and weekly diaries.

All these sites have portfolio management tools allowing you to keep track of your investments as well as increasingly sophisticated charting tools. For example, Moneyworld's PowerCharts allow you to generate graphs for individual shares or comparing multiple shares with indices or sectors over time periods varying from one day to 10 years. You can also see the moving average of a stock from five to 250 days.

If you don't have a stockbroker, all the websites already mentioned provide commentary on the existing online services. One, UK-iNvest, has also announced its own plans to offer a dealing service in the near future. If you are having trouble making up your mind about which broker to choose, try e-traderUK, which was launched last month. This is a specialist site solely devoted to online investing in equities and offers a guide to the available broking services.

Use Hemmington Scott's hemscott.net as an Internet service provider and you get access to the company's price data, financial information database and broker forecasts. Market-eye from Primark, which supplies services to City professionals, offers you free access to delayed prices, including commodities and futures as well as shares.

If you want to look further afield for the niche websites which focus on particular issues you should go to the Find website, established purely as a directory of UK-oriented personal finance sites or try Moneyworld's Start section.

Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
Sport
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
News
Robyn Lawley
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
people
News
people
News
i100  ... he was into holy war way before it was on trend
Life and Style
lifeDon't get caught up on climaxing
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
Arts and Entertainment
Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint)
newsBloomsbury unveils new covers for JK Rowling's wizarding series
News
scienceScientists try to explain the moon's funny shape
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
As Loki in The Avengers (2012)
filmRead Tom Hiddleston's email to Joss Whedon on prospect of playing Loki
Voices
voices In defence of the charcoal-furred feline, by Felicity Morse
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    1st Line Support Technician / Application Support

    £20000 - £24000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider of web based m...

    Team Secretary - (Client Development/Sales Team) - Wimbledon

    £28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Secretary (Sales Team Support) - Mat...

    Accountant / Assistant Management Accountant

    Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: We are looking for an Assistant Management Ac...

    Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

    £600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

    Day In a Page

    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
    Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

    Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

    Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
    Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

    Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

    Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
    Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

    Spanx launches range of jeans

    The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
    10 best over-ear headphones

    Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

    Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
    Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

    Commonwealth Games

    David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

    Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star