A bloodless execution on the internet

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The Independent Online
ON THE stock market, timing can be critical. Investors who are trying to profit from short-term movements in share values need to deal quickly. When they strike a bargain, they need to know they have traded at that price.

The conventional way to trade is by phoning a stockbroker. In turn, the stockbroker has access to real-time prices displayed on screens linked to the Stock Exchange.

Last Monday, stockbroker Charles Schwab carried out its first fully automated trade over the internet in the UK. Schwab is an "execution-only" stockbroker: it buys and sells shares on behalf of clients, but does not offer advice.

Schwab has offered a form of internet share dealing since April but it is only now that it bypasses human intervention altogether. The broker estimates that it takes 15 to 20 seconds from sending the order to receiving confirmation of the deal. Internet users who want to trade can view real- time prices for the stocks they are interested in, and place an order to buy or sell "at best". Alternatively, investors can set daily limits on the price they will pay.

The system works by sending orders from Schwab's website directly to the stock market's retail service providers (RSPs). The quantity of shares and the price achieved are then transmitted straight back through the Schwab website trading page. Within half an hour or so, the new details will be added to the client's portfolio details. These can then be viewed over the web.

Schwab has some 6,000 investors registered to use its internet service. The automatic dealing system is available to anyone with a nominee account at Schwab. Clients with a Frequent Trader Account pay pounds 19.50 per trade regardless of value; for the MarketMaster account, the minimum transaction charge is pounds 15.

Links: Charles Schwab Europe: http://www.schwab-worldwide.com/ europe