"This site is under construction."
That's been the message greeting day traders for the last week on the
Web site. TradeScape, a 1 1/2-year-old discount brokerage firm catering to the growing ranks of day traders, had planned to launch a public Web-based
version of its proprietary FirstLevel trading software on March 1. But that launch has now been delayed for more than a week.
"We're testing and debugging," says Omar Amanat, TradeScape's 26-year-old founder and CEO.
TradeScape designed FirstLevel software to offer free public access to Level II market information, which displays the prices and sizes of all the bids and asks on
stocks. FirstLevel also offers investors access to electronic communication networks, or
ECNs, which execute stock transactions by matching buy and sell orders. The software represents the latest initiative to open to the public a world of data and trading technology that has largely been the domain of deep-pocketed investors.
Amanat says the company now plans to launch the Level II quotes this Friday. And one week later, TradeScape will roll out the full-blown version of the software, he says, which will be able to execute trades and manage portfolios of day traders.
The company also has a plan to leap over the
barriers to entry in the ECN market. Amanat says TradeScape has developed an "electronic communications portal" that will serve as a gateway to eight existing ECNs. The portal product will be released with the full-blown version of FirstLevel on March 19.
When its Web site goes live, TradeScape will be one of a handful of online trading services offering unfettered access to bid and ask data.
, another New York-based day-trading firm, has been offering its customers Level II quotes since 1996 and access to ECNs since 1997 through its Watcher trading software. And
offers its most active investors a Power E*Trade service with Level II Nasdaq quotes.
On the other hand, developing high-quality online trading systems is technically very difficult. "It's one thing to create a system," says Broadway's founder Mark Friedfertig, "It's another to create a system that's fast and reliable." However, to better focus his company, Friedfertig points out that his firm licenses its trading software from
. Broadway would rather pay a software licensing fee to Datek, he says, than devote its finite resources and capital to developing software in-house.
To ensure fast execution of its trades, TradeScape's Amanat says it has rented a T-3 line from
InterNap Network Services
, a new high-performance ISP that guarantees peak performance by buying bandwidth from several major Internet backbones and employing its own proprietary route management technology.
"It's the fastest connection available on the Net right now," says Amanat.
TradeScape is launching the site in an effort to acquire more customers and the wafer-thin trading commissions they bring in to the firm. Right now, TradeScape claims about 120 traders in New York and about 500 more in branch offices in major cities such as Los Angeles, Miami and Denver. In addition, TradeScape has given out a Web-based version of its FirstLevel software to 400 more traders who are unable to make it to a bricks-and-mortar branch.
But getting access to market-level information and low-cost fast execution systems is no guarantee of success for online investors. Without the proper training and education, say online trading experts, day traders will get their heads handed to them.
"We've emulated the trading strategies of Wall Street professionals," explains Friedfertig, a former floor trader on the New York Stock Exchange. "That's been the key to our success. We've taught these people to trade like market makers."
TradeScape will offer its traders a free online simulated trading tool -- nicknamed the
-- and an online help manual. And while TradeScape does not offer any formalized training to the public, it does recruit a select number of traders to attend its TradeScape University. The three-month program schools aspiring traders in such topics as risk management, market psychology and technical analysis. The company is also developing an online tutorial based on the program that will launch in a few months.
"The best way to learn is by ongoing intensive trading," says Amanat.