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Sorry, while this comment mentions SelfTrade, it has been posted here in error, and belongs properly to COMDIRECT. I am not deleting it at this stage as it will be relevant if you are seeking opinion on on-line brokers.
Safe, comprehensive and childsplay to navigate, comdirect.com is a MUST for your bookmarks, whether or not you choose to use the company for on-line share dealing.
I've tried much advertised share tracking software, costing up to £250. Now I've got FREE all the analysis tools, data, charts, up-to-date news I've ever wished for - all on a single click on my "favourites" list, with enabling downloads taking up a paltry 2kb of my Disk space! With every world market covered you can cancel your subscription to the FT.
Without becoming a client, you can set up and track your own real or notional portfolio of shares, with simple icons taking you to sophisticated charts of performance over the current day or over your choice of periods up to five years. They even supply a handy real time ticker (or "crawler") for the top of your screen (you determine the size), on which you can select the securities and kind of info you wish to see at a glance while surfing off their site (eg latest price, highs, lows, share price change or per cent change).
An experienced investor? You'll be amazed at the speed with which you can click through the most sophisticated tools and data that lead to informed dealing. And at holiday time you'll find their currency converter very handy.
A newcomer? Try the guided tour that takes the mystique out of trading, and use the glossary to amaze your friends with your understanding of stock market jargon. Above all don't risk any of your cash until you've tried their free on-line trading game - the thrills of growing or blowing your initial £100,000 trading fund over each month will teach you some serious lessons about whether you should real-trade on rumour, hunch or on hard information. Again it's free - and you could win a decent prize.
Overall the site rivals the excellent UK Invest site (which doesn't offer a broker service, although it does provide a non-operative link to one!)
As a new client, however I am more downbeat about their dealing service.
It takes about a fortnight to get funds cleared to trade initially - comdirect blames bank clearance rules for direct debit arrangements, while in reality the villain is their failure to accept debit or credit card funding of dealing a/cs. They do offer, if pressed, to accept the cost of a CHAPS bank-to-bank transfer which will reduce this timescale by more than half. After the initial pain you will need to keep a contingency cash deposit in their coffers if you want to be able to act instantly on a hot tip - and I'm afraid the interest they pay is a paltry 2.5 per cent (Selftrade offers 5% currently).
On the plus side, customer service - by e-mail , phone or site message is swift, friendly and attentive. And you can't complain about a flat rate transaction charge of £12.50 or £14.50 if trade is over £5000. Sign-up is easy too - complete an on-line form, print sign and freepost it off. I got a no-small-print and lucid information pack back in the post within 48 hours.
Considering this site is not much more than a year old and improvements are constantly on-stream, this site is a real hot tip for the occasional or serious investor. Try it for free.