It's a great time to be an online trader. Brokers are battling for your business, getting your attention with giveaways and glitzy TV ads. Commissions have plummeted. Goodies such as "floating tickets" and customized analytical software abound. Brand-name bulge-bracket brokerages have barreled in -- charging higher fees but offering such enticements as access to IPOs, advice from star analysts and even real-time bond trading.
It's a mad rush for market share, and it's happening because more and more investors are going online. "The tremendous growth of online accounts has been far greater than anyone expected," says
financial services analyst Richard Strauss, who predicts that the number of online accounts will rise 150% to 25 million in the next two to four years. According to a recent
U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray
study, assets held in online brokerage accounts broke the $900 billion mark in the fourth quarter of 1999.
But are you getting what you want from your online brokers? In our third online broker survey, you, our readers, have the chance to tell us the good, the bad and the ugly about this changing world. We want to know what's important to you when you trade online and whether you're getting what you want from your broker. Have you switched your account in the past year? We want to know why. Are you tempted to try a full-service firm? How reliable is your broker's Web site? We'd also like you to share your wish list -- we have left space at the end of the survey for you to tell us anything else that's on your mind.
Your responses will help us not only to identify the standout firms, but also to spot some larger industry trends. With your assistance, we can try to figure out which online brokers are likely to be standing after the cost of signing up new customers becomes too pricey for some firms to bear. (After all, getting Geena Davis to appear in your commercial doesn't come cheap.)
It's an issue the experts are debating right now. Goldman's Strauss says he is "absolutely betting on the big boys," the well-established, deep-pocketed full-service firms. "The fundamental truth," he points out, "is that people have to be comfortable giving you money." By contrast, Jason Lind, who covers the industry for U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray, believes that "the entrance of the
won't make much difference" because they cater to a different clientele.
But even more important, based on what you tell us, we'll tell you the brokers that best meet your trading needs, whether you're a no-frills daytrader, a buy-and-holder or a bells-and-whistles type of investor. So please take a moment to fill out the survey
here. After we crunch the numbers, we'll report back to you.
Also, remember -- when you click the submit button and add your email address, you become eligible to win some fine threads -- one of 50