NAME HAAKON OVERLI
POSITION CO-FOUNDER, SELFTRADE
WEB SITE WWW.SELFTRADE.CO.UK
Norwegian e-trepreneur Haakon Overli was at school with the chief executive of Nokia and spent the late 1980s running a merchant bank before co-founding online share-dealing business selftrade in France in spring 1999. After a dollars 100 million flotation on Paris' Nouvelle Marche in April this year, selftrade.co.uk was launched the following month. In September it was announced that German stockbroker DAB would acquire the business in a deal then worth dollars 900 million.
When did you become interested in the internet?
In the early '90s when I was a maths student at Durham university. In those days, the net was an important research and communication tool, but it wasn't up to business needs. The world wide web and the browsers that we use to navigate hadn't been invented and it was largely an academic environment.
How much time do you spend surfing each day?
Typically, somewhere between one and two hours. I check the selftrade site constantly, and also the sites of competitors and advertisers to keep an eye on them. I also use the net to keep in touch with my friends and family back in Norway, and I still use it for research sometimes.
Which sites do you visit each week?
My favourite sites for share prices are Bloomberg and ftmarketwatch. I also like thestreet.co.uk for its content and feel. Outside the financial services sector, I use Ryanair and easyjet for cheap flights.
Who are your advisers?
Design UK does our site design, and we run broking software from Consort Services. Other than that, all our technical development and support is in-house - even down to doing our own web hosting - because we need to offer a genuine 24/7 service to our customers, with no breakdowns.
What is your company's web strategy?
To give people the information, products and systems they need to make difficult financial decisions more easily - and not only on the net. We do deals and make alliances with bricks-and-mortar businesses too, and are planning to open high street branches in the UK soon. Everything is informed by the question: 'Where can we add value and improve the customer experience?' That's the reason for our fixed trading fees - people are more willing to trade if they know how much it will cost to do so. So far it's working - we have 5,000 clients who spend an average of pounds 3,000 per trade. We also want to make money, of course - this is one of the few remaining markets where the internet can dramatically cut costs and still leave enough for a reasonable profit margin.
What is the most significant change that the internet will bring about?
Until the internet came along, too many of our financial decisions were made for us by someone else. Individuals had no control over the fate of their money, the bank could lend it to Eurotunnel and didn't have to ask first. By making it economically viable for people to take control of their own money and make choices based on individual circumstances, the net will revolutionise the financial services market. And it will help society as a whole to target and control spending more effectively.