Shares for sale on the high street

The Explosion in share ownership has been accompanied by a large increase in the number of organisations offering share dealing services.

As well as traditional stockbrokers, all the big banks and a handful of building societies offer share dealing services. You do not have to be a customer to use the services and you often can deal over the phone, by post as well as through the branch.

There has also been a rapid growth in specialist execution-only brokers, where you simply tell them to buy and sell shares for you but receive no advice. This trend has been spearheaded by ShareLink and CaterDeal, formerly known as CityDeal. They have been joined by execution-only operations run by established full-service brokers, such as Brewin Dolphin Bell Lawrie's Stocktrade division.

The banks offer all the usual stockbroking services, such as execution- only, portfolio advisory services and discretionary services.

Execution-only services are the cheapest. If you deal through the branch and want to sell shares you should take your share certificate in with you. You will be told there and then how much you will get for the shares and a cheque will be sent to you 10 days later, or five days later if you have a nominee account with the stockbroker.

Some branches of Norwich & Peterborough Building Society offer instant settlement, which means they will issue you with a cheque on the spot, but this service costs a little extra, with commission at 1.65 per cent rather than the usual 1.4 per cent.

Execution-only services over the phone or by post are often cheaper and can start from as little as 1 per cent with a minimum fee of pounds 9 or pounds 10.

Portfolio and discretionary services are available over the phone and through the branch. To run a portfolio of shares you traditionally have needed a minimum of pounds 20,000.

If you want advice you will have to pay for it. The more advice you want the more it will cost. Barclays Stockbrokers' advisory service costs pounds 100 a year and you have to pay a minimum transaction cost of pounds 20 every time you deal. The service includes setting up a nominee account for you to ensure all your dividends are paid into your bank account and that you receive all perks associated with your share holdings. You are given an adviser who you can speak to over the phone who will have details of your portfolio on screen and be able to give personal advice.

The execution-only brokers initially earned a reputation for "cheap and cheerful" operations, but their services have grown in sophistication while their fees have become cheaper.