A GREYHOUND owner is up and running on the inside track to upset the stuffy world of stockbroking.
Haakon Overli, originally from Oslo, Norway, is head of the online share dealing company, Self Trade.
And he is about as far from the bowler hat and brolly image of a city stockbroker as it is possible to be.
For a start, he's more at home at a dog track, cheering on his four greyhounds, than in the leather armchairs of a gentlemen's club.
His wacky TV adverts, with voiceovers by deadpan comic Paul Merton, set him apart, too. They stress Self Trade's no-nonsense image, with the message: "We make share dealing a doddle".
But given problems at Barclay's internet bank last week - when customers accessed other people's bank details - is it safe? And if so, is it a sensible way to trade in shares?
Self Trade is backed by massive European banks, so experts agree that in the event of a technical disaster, customers will not see their cash vanish.
Cashpoint compared Self Trade's Internet service with traditional methods of buying and selling shares through a bank or stockbroker.
The newcomers are easy to use and appear good value, provided you are dealing with several hundred pounds at a time.
But remember, the jokey adverts don't make the stock market less risky as a place to invest your hard-earned cash.
The first step is to register. Self Trade open a special Bank of Scotland account for customers, paying 5.2 per cent interest.
New customers need to send off signed forms and transfer cash into their trading account.
If there are no hitches, they can be trading two days after they register.
Self Trade offer shares in only 1650 companies. They are all well-known UK firms, chosen simply because they can issue electronic share certificates which cuts paperwork and keeps costs down.
But the real appeal is the price. Self Trade charge a flat fee of pounds 12.50 per trade, which compares well with banks' and stockbrokers' charges.
Haakon told Cashpoint: "Our basic philosophy is to pass on as many savings as we can to the customer.
"We want to appeal to people who have not dealt in shares before. In the industry, the average amount people invest in shares per trade is pounds 4000 or pounds 5000.
"For our clients, the amount is not nearly that much, but we advise people to invest at least pounds 500, so the charges remain good value.
"We are not telling people to invest all their money in the stock market. But there is no reason why people should not hold 10 per cent or 20 per cent of their wealth in shares alongside other financial products."
Self Trade is up against about 30 rival online brokers. The big two are Charles Schwab and Barclays, with 100,000 customers apiece.
Another favourite is from NatWest and Royal Bank of Scotland, who extended their Brokerline phone service to include internet deals - a facility used by a third of their 40,000 customers.
Commission charges are one per cent on the first pounds 4000 of a deal and 0.1 per cent on the rest. So a pounds 5000 trade would cost pounds 41. The minimum fee is pounds 15.
If you want to invest hundreds rather than thousands, keeping costs down is crucial.
But for those with serious money, other factors - such as advice from your expert stockbroker - come into play.
Brokerline customers can access a poor man's version of old-school stockbroking for pounds 75 per year. For that, they can phone stockbrokers for advice on shares they are thinking of buying.
You can contact Self Trade at: www.selftrade.co.uk.
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