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mortar brokers can not match.  This model was validated by the move of the traditional brick and mortar houses to the online market.  An equally important factor is that overwhelmingly compelling feature of the internet - the ability to do a transaction without having to deal with some slick salesman who leaves you feeling, no matter how "good" a deal you got, like you have suckered into something.  This is a major reason why people buy things like cars, insurance, even homes over the Internet.  Investment brokers fall into this category.  Online investing has proven that people would rather not deal with stockbrokers if they could help it.  This factor will continue to drive growth in the online investing industry.

Presently, the typical online investor is a person who makes almost all of his own investment decisions, is more interested in speculation than investing, and makes frequent transactions.  They run the gamut from the "day traders" to experienced investors willing to take more risks than a mutual fund investor.  It is anticipated that the next major growth in this industry will come from more mainstream investors.  They want lower transactions costs and a little more excitement than diligently putting $100 into a mutual fund every month.  Yet these investors are less adventurous than the day traders and want some help with their decisions.  Both groups are clamoring for access to areas of investing previously off-limits to the average individual investor  - IPO's, options etc.  Online brokers are rushing to offer these services to their customers and trying to attract new ones.

Therein lies the problem.  While investors are turning to the Internet to perform their own investment transactions, they have become emboldened (some would say forced) to make more and more of the decision-making themselves.  Most of the vanguard online brokerage firms, like E-Trade and Ameritrade, have virtually no research or advisory services to offer.  The more mainline firms, like Charles Schwab and DLJ Direct, offer only basic information available in every financial newspaper or magazine.  Consequently, online investors are left to their own methodology for making decisions about increasingly sophisticated investments.  Further, the number of public companies to invest in is far beyond the

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