Internet-Based Foreign Exchange Service Debuts

FRAMINGHAM (03/10/2000) - Starting today, international customers of London-based Barclays PLC will be able to trade currencies online, and foreign customers of San Francisco-based discount broker The Charles Schwab Corp. will soon be able to as well.

The service won't be available to U.S. customers in the immediate future; rather, it will be rolled out in stages in countries where Schwab has affiliates.

"We're targeting Canada as our first market," said Schwab spokesman Michael Durand. "The reason we're looking at international markets first is that's where we see the most immediate need for this capability," he said.

Most of the interest in foreign trading is from foreign investors who want to put their money into U.S. stock markets, said Dan Burke, an analyst at Gomez Advisors Inc. in Lincoln, Mass.

But foreign investors using Schwab's online brokerage services through the company's Charles Schwab & Co. subsidiary will be able to buy and sell securities in different foreign markets without needing to separately negotiate foreign exchange contracts.

The Internet-based currency trading system was developed at Barclays and is already in live demonstration, said Barclays project manager Andy Rowland. It took four months to develop - a significant advance over the typical nine- to 12-month development period - and is Java- and XML-based.

Based on Barclays' positive experience, the entire financial industry will soon be moving to the Java platform, predicted Rowland. "It's very fast, it's easy to maintain, it's rapid to develop, it's very thin and it doesn't require any software on the desktop, so it can be distributed [in] real time on the Internet."

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