IT Tech

Full-Service Firms Will Bring More Spice to Web-Trading War Investors who have invested online at discount web sites may drop their current service provider and go to a full service firm. Full service firms such as Merril Lynch, Salomon Smith Barney and Paine Webber have entered into the online web trading war. The only catch is, unlike the discount firms; the full service firms offer professional advice. The full service firms have dropped commission rates and fees for online trading. The prices are still not as low as the discount firms, but worth the price for the available advisors and their expertise. Industry analysts have suggested that a lot of the discount firms will lose a lot of business due to the recent service offerings by the big names. Merril Lynch & Co. led the way this summer by pulling in $16 billion in assets from its online trading. It accumulated those assets in the first three months of its program. A similar fee based program without web trading took five years to attract $24 billion in assets. Lynch offers human advice and unlimited web trading for a flat annual fee. The stronger growth rate for Lynchs new advice/web trading account might be an indication that investors were looking for a full service firm to step up and offer cheaper flat-fee rates. It could suggest that Internet trades with access to professional human advice, which is a key asset of full-service brokerage firms, could stunt the growth of the discount web firms, with their cut rate commissions and little advice. Lynch says that most of its assets in the web program came from existing customers that transferred from other plans. Yet, the firm says 20% of the asses came from new accounts. Lynchs total account assets amount to $1.5 trillion. Analysts say that as online investors become older, wealthier and more adverse to risk, they will seek out these full service firms for more guidance rather than going with decisi…

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