The Hi-Tech Investor: Stockbrokers rise to the US challenge

LONG-ESTABLISHED British stockbrokers are trying to see off the American threat with their own real-time, online sharedealing services. James Brearley's service, Icon, is not being backed by anything like the marketing muscle deployed by US newcomer E*Trade, but in many ways the services are equals.

Icon does not offer the cheapest dealing services but its pricing structure is simple and it can work out better value. James Brearley charges a flat fee of pounds 20 per trade. This compares with a minimum fee of pounds 14.95 from E*Trade on deals up to pounds 1,500. For larger transactions, E*Trade's fee rises to pounds 24.95, but it falls back to pounds 14.95 for frequent traders. On this basis, Icon could be an attractive option for investors who buy or sell larger numbers of shares less often.

James Brearley's site was developed with Interactive Markets, a subsidiary of the Interactive Investor website. The site has some nice touches, such as a visual countdown bar that shows how long a quoted price is valid. The interface itself is a little cluttered, with several windows displaying data.

James Brearley will soon add a portfolio monitoring service to Icon as well as administrative support, including dividend statements and capital gains tax calculations.

Some investors will take comfort from the fact that firms such as James Brearley are established stockbrokers who have been in the business for many years.

The next few weeks will see even stiffer competition for the traditional broking houses. The US discount broker DLJ Direct is widely tipped to launch a UK internet service. The Halifax also plans to launch internet stockbroking next month..

James Brearley & Sons,; DLJ,; Halifax,

Widows' ISA

INTERNET investors who prefer an index tracking fund to selecting their own shares should visit the Scottish Widows website. The insurance company has joined the small but growing band of fund managers and investment houses offering individual savings accounts (ISAs) over the net.

Scottish Widows' first online ISA is a UK index tracker that meets the Government's CAT mark for charges. Investors with a debit card can take out an ISA online without the need for a written application or signature.

Scottish Widows,

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