The home share trader

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Share dealing on the Internet got off to a shaky start when the Stock Exchange got itself involved in an embarrassing public spat with ESI, the company providing the share price information. That was quickly resolved, and the service is now fully operational.

Although several stockbrokers have Web pages, only two, ShareLink and Brewin Dolphin, currently use ESI's electronic gateways to provide an online dealing service. In both cases the process is similar.

The screen shot (left) shows an order being placed with ShareLink to sell 1,000 Abbey National shares; the entire operation, from checking the price to sending off the order, takes less than three minutes.

To deal through ShareLink you will need to open an account giving personal and banking details, and subscribe to either the ESI Bronze or Silver service - at a cost of pounds 10 or pounds 20 a month - giving access to prices and other information. The difference is that the Silver package includes unlimited access to real-time share prices. Dealing charges start at pounds 10.

You can fill in an account-opening screen on the Net, but the investor protection regulations require that you complete and sign the account forms on paper before dealing begins. Once the account is opened, the system effectively gives you a personal Web page from which you can buy and sell orders at any time of the day or night. While the market is open the order will normally be executed within minutes. Out of hours, you can change or cancel at any time; the deal will be executed when the market next opens.

If you are buying, you can pay by cheque, bank transfer, Switch or Delta. In the case of a cheque you are advised to post it on the spot, to be sure that cleared funds are available for settlement. Sellers can normally expect a cheque within about a week.

ShareLink's chief executive, David Jones, stresses that security is top priority: "Messages sent from you to ShareLink or vice versa cannot be read by anyone else, and there are extra security measures built in to the system to ensure that it is safe."

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