Once viewed as a fad fueled by a curious new medium called the Internet, online securities trading has now become standard practice for many financial services firms. A growing number of mutual fund advisers are wondering where they can fit into the changing landscape.

At least one fund group is rumored to be seriously considering starting a proprietary discount brokerage services unit with full online trading capabilities. Other fund advisers are watching, thinking about how they too can grab a piece of the online action or, defensively, prevent shareholders from turning to competitors who do offer online trading. Funds distributed through intermediary sales channels are torn between introducing trading services for investors, which could alienate selling brokers, and responding to the needs of their shareholders.

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