Personal Finance: Internet Investor

SHARE TRADING on the Internet is still in its infancy in the UK but figures released this week show the baby is growing fast. In fact, the number of private share trades transacted on the Internet is doubling every quarter. A survey for the Association of Private Client Investment Managers and Stockbrokers traces the jump from one trade in 1,000 in the second quarter of 1998 to nine 1,000 in the first quarter of 1999.

The APCIMS/Compeer quarterly survey of market activity suggests that if the growth continues at the same rate, the Internet will account for 15 per cent of all individual client trades by the first quarter of 2000.

The APCIMS chief executive Angela Knight said: "Many commentators see electronic share dealing as one of the key drivers of the coming e-commerce revolution, and our figures show that this early growth is roughly equal to the growth in the number of Internet users, which doubles every 100 days."

Internet share trading activity is almost certain to be boosted next month thanks to a summer special offer from Charles Schwab Europe. The execution-only stockbroker offers you a chance to dip a toe into the equity market in July with trades in UK-quoted shares dealt on the Web free of commission for the month. The brokerage's usual commission rates start at pounds 15, going to pounds 75 depending on the size of the deal.

The offer is available on Schwab's General Pep, ISA, MarketMaster, Frequent Traders Club and Investment Club products. The firm's online customers have traded more than pounds 400m in shares since its Internet service in the UK started last year, making it the largest UK player in e-commerce.

Nationwide's Internet service provider will drop its monthly pounds 7.50 charge for unlimited use from August. Free CD-Roms to register will be available from all Nationwide branches. The helpdesk phone costs 50p per minute, average for the free ISP business. The service will be available to customers and non-customers.

Philip Williamson, Nationwide's retail operations director, says: "Online banking users will treble to a million by the end of this year and quickly rise to six million, so the Internet is a medium organisations cannot afford to ignore."

Nationwide, with 90,000 online banking customers has been in the Internet banking business for two years, longer than any other major British player. Customers with any of the society's savings accounts may also now manage their accounts online.

Charles Schwab Europe: www.schwab-europe.com

Nationwide: www.nationwide.co.uk

Robin can be reached at robinamlot@aol.com

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