Internet Investor: Trading places on the Net

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The Independent Online
Datastream/ICV's Market-Eye internet service appears to be living up to its initial promise with the development of its "Trading Floor", created to provide links to a range of broking services. The ultimate aim is to allow you to click on a share price and go straight to your dealer to complete a trade.

The first two brokers to set up shop with Datastream/ICV are James Brearley & Sons of Blackpool and Edinburgh-based Torrie & Co. By coincidence, both firms have been in the stockbroking business since 1919.

James Brearley & Sons' Internet Dealing Service (IDS) is an execution- only facility. The IDS commission scale is 1 per cent, with a minimum of pounds 20 and a maximum of pounds 50 per deal. Users receive, by e-mail, Brearley's regular "Investment Review" and also have access to other information, including the broker's current buy-list, on its web pages.

FasTrade is the execution-only stockbroking service from Torrie & Co, the only independent stockbroking partnership in Scotland. Torrie & Co's main site offers information on the firm's other services. FasTrade is specifically an internet dealing service. Commission rates for UK shares, government stocks and corporate bonds are set at 0.5 per cent, with a minimum charge of pounds 15 and a maximum charge of pounds 50.

Torrie charges more for trading in overseas securities - 1.8 per cent of the value of the deal with a minimum charge of pounds 30. There is also an "account charge" of pounds 2.50/stock per half year. However, if you trade more than 10 times in any one year this charge is waived.

As you would expect, a custody service and a high-interest bank account are offered by both brokers. The firms accept trading orders via secure e-mail, authenticated by the PIN they give you once you have registered, and promise to "action your dealing instructions as soon as reasonably practicable at the best price available".

You may place orders with or without price limits. However, given the current volatile nature of share prices - and the fluctuations in prices which occur at the start and close of business - limits might be wise. Both firms accept limit orders for the day they receive them, but the order will lapse if not fulfilled by the close of trading at 4.30pm.

Both services require you to have cleared funds in the high-interest account, which they expect you to set up before making any purchases. If you are selling, the brokers will not proceed with the sale unless they have possession of the shares. Any purchases madethrough either service will be held in a nominee account.

Datastream/ICV's Investor Service is a free service, offering delayed prices and news from a variety of source. London Stock Exchange prices are delayed by 20 minutes and Liffe prices by 15 minutes. It also offers charts and historical data from Datastream's own databases (five years closing mid-prices). The site also offers a paid-for Premium Service, which allows you to tailor a package with combination of delayed and real-time prices.

At the same time as James Brearley & Sons and Torrie & Co were hanging out their internet shingles, another broker was withdrawing from the web. CaterDeal pulled out of internet share dealing at the end of February. CaterDeal's parent, Abbey National, apparently prefers to develop a proprietary interactive service rather than upgrade CaterDeal's internet operations.


James Brearley & Sons:

Torrie & Co: