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Independent View by Stephen Lansdown

Technology stocks may have taken a pounding over the last 18 months but

there is no doubt that technology has an important part to play in all our

lives, not just now but in the future too.

The IT spend in my own firm has been in the millions over the last couple

of years as we seek to deal with more business, make sure we look after

our clients&#39 investments properly and embrace the internet to enhance our

business development. This spend is likely to continue.

Technology has come a long way during the 20 years I have been in the

business. The first reasonable amount of commission that we generated

when we started up was spent on a PC and now we have well over 300-plus

numerous servers, etc.

Despite the improvement in technology, a good old unit trust has managed

to avoid it, maintaining the paper chain and continuing to be a threat

to the rain forests.

One of the advantages of being a stockbroker is that it makes you realise

how quickly stocks and shares can be bought and sold and the resultant

deals settled.

The fact that it is easier for a client to buy and sell a stock on a

foreign stock exchange than it is to buy and sell a unit trust shows how

ridiculously archaic the unit trust dealing and settlement system is and

why change is essential.

The advent of EMX must, therefore, be welcomed. It may not be the perfect

solution as yet but it is a solid platform and certainly a major step

towards an electronic trading platform for unit trusts and open-ended

investment companies.

This is something desperately needed if the industry is going to take a

bigger share of the savings market. This is the reason we have invested in

the project and we shall look to make good use of it, as I hope all other

IFAs and product providers will also do.

A new beginning for unit trust dealing coincides with the launch of New

Star and it will be interesting to see the effect this has on the

marketplace. There is naturally more int-rigue with the launch of this

company bearing in mind the animosity that existed between Jupiter and John

Duffield. His desire to prove that he can do it all over again and this

time much quicker will make interesting viewing.

At the end of the day, it is performance which counts and there is no

reason to doubt that Richard Pease and Alan Miller with their excellent

pedigree will produce the goods in the New Star funds now being launched.

Whether the prospect of such performance justifies a switch from existing

funds and in particular Jupiter&#39s remains to be seen and is a matter for

the individual IFA to make the necessary judgement. All I would say is that

a launch of such a company with such a high profile is certainly a fillip

to the market and anything which focuses the attention of the investor on

unit trusts has to be good news. It might even awaken investor interest.

We all face a tough 12 months. Economic indicators are confusing and I

suppose it is good news that, on the one hand, people are worried about

inflation whereas, on the other, they are worried about economic slowdown.

Opposing views tend to make volatile but interesting markets and give fund

managers the opportunity to make profits for our clients. There is a great

need to study the performance statistics of the various fund managers to

seek out those who perform best when times are tough.

This is where the IFA can add value and earn his commission or fee,

whichever is charged, and justify their existence to the client and the

world at large. With interest rates low, the expectation of returns has to

come down but it is often in these circumstances that some very good

profits can be made.

Do not be tempted to put investor apathy down to the summer malaise and

sunshine. Now is the time to talk to cli-ents, getting them to review their

portfolios and making the odd change where necessary. The launch of two

attractive funds from New Star must be a great catalyst to talk to clients

and make them think about getting their portfolio in shape.

Stephen Lansdown is chairman of Hargreaves Lansdown

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