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Online Investment - The Forest And The Trees

Futures. Day trading. International markets. Online brokerages. The barrage of investment opportunities on the internet can drive off as many investors as it should attract. There is simply too much noise; that's why even small regional banks have asset management services available in their storefronts. Today's potential investor is most likely looking for help in vetting the amount of information being thrown at him, rather than seeking more.

Probably the best approach to presenting information to a potential investor is to take the personal approach. Who is doing what? What are the speculative opportunities, where are the steady, cautious, safer options? How much cushion should an investor have in order to indulge in some of the riskier opportunities, such as futures and IPOs?

A good layman's resource for concise articles that provide accessible and topical information is Businessweek online. The magazine has an enormous and accessible website that will take you to articles on overvalued housing markets; on the pace of mortgage resets; on the weakness of the housing market; and condo hotels as a hot U.S. market niche.

Access to that sort of basic material will make a potential investor more comfortable with other sections of an investor's website. Too much scattered specific material too quickly can be a frustrating experience, even for the seasoned investor. A glance at the homepage for http://www.investorguide.com/ provides a market snapshot complete with miniature graphs; a list of hot stocks; a stock of the day; five clickable headlines for investment stories of the day; and three columns of commentary. As an introductory page, that would be overkill for anyone but the most focused of investors.

The SEC provides an informative and credible discussion of online trading, its tricks and travails at http://www.sec.gov/investor/pubs/onlinetips.htm. Including this sort of background material on an investor website would provide a degree of credibility not found on the more commercial, high pressure sites. The FTC has a bright green page that features investment promises that should ring alarm bells at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/edcams/onl-invest/index.html. A link to this page with an appropriate quote about "bewares" for the buyer would be another credible and unusual touch with which to frame an investor's resource page.

Wachovia's http://www.wachovia.com/personal/page/0,,4803,00.html is a good example of laying out the basic investment opportunities and offering various levels of assistance to the potential investor in a calm and informative fashion. There are no bargains offered on the page, no low commission rates, no pressure to go down one path or another.

On the other hand, at http://www.schwab.com/public/schwab/home/prospect.html?src=muf one of the country's largest and most successful brokerage firms has a home page that has too much hustle: "How fast can you diversify your portfolio? How fast can you click?"

What they do well on that page is hidden behind a small button that says "New to investing?" That will take you to a set of investor profiles that allows you to define your personal comfort level. The graphic then discusses risk levels and what percentage of your investments should accordingly be in which category. It is that sort of informative distillation of investment information that is most likely going to be appealing to the potential investor searching for assistance.
------------------------------------------------About Author-------------------------------------------------------------------------

Madison Lockwood is a customer relations associate, specializing in small business development, for Apollo Hosting. Apollo Hosting provides website hosting, ecommerce hosting, vps hosting, and web design services to a wide range of customers.

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