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Get ready to Trade Online in '99!
By Tony French, Forum Manager

One of the most promising web developments for 1999 will be online UK stock trading, says Tony French, Forum Manager

Ahh, technology lag. It shouldn’t be news to anyone that Britain and Europe trail behind the U.S. in technolgies from space exploration to web development, but nowhere  is this lag more boldly demonstrated than in online stock and securities trading.

US online (and offline) brokerage giant Charles Schwab, for example, laid claim to more than 2 million web-brokerage accounts in 1998, with $145 billion in assets online. Industry experts predict that 3.5 million U.S. trading accounts will be opened online in 1999, more than the total number of new international accounts predicted for the next four years.

But online trading leaders Schwab, E*Trade and Toronto Dominion all see Europe and the UK as a potentially huge market and are entering now with hopes of realising sizeable profits in the next three years. UK residents can already open accounts at Schwab Worldwide, trading in either US or UK markets, or with sector-leader Toronto Dominion through its hugely successful Green Line holding. Maverick competitor E*Trade has pledged to enter the UK market by mid-year; Britian is one of 32 countries in which E*Trade had licensing agreements to launch online stock trading.

The UK is a good bet for these companies; thirty-four percent of U.K. citizens, or 12 million people, own stock, and the UK is a European leader in the growth of home and office PC use. The introduction of the Euro should stimulate UK and Europen traders as Europe's exchanges to link together, and eliminate the currency risk from trading between European countries

And web trading does work outside the US; Schwab claims that after just one year, 80 percent of business in its Hong Kong office comes through the web. With a changing economy, the growing embrace of technology, and increased concerns about retirement planning, it’s a good bet that these heavily discounted Internet brokerage options will be an attractive bet for UK web users this year.

Tony French previously managed The Microsoft Network's UK Business & Finance forum, and is the Managing Director of AF Stocktaking.

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