PORTLAND, Ore. — National Discount Brokers Corp.’s Web site was ranked highest in a WebCriteria Inc. study of the top six brokerage sites.

WebCriteria, a research and consulting firm, ranked the sites in order of the time and effort required to open a trading account online. The study was released Monday. National Discount Brokers required just over three and a half minutes to open an account.

E-Trade Group Inc.’s site came in second, followed by Merrill Lynch & Co., Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co., Ameritrade Holding Corp. Banc of America Investment Services Inc., which had a time of over nine minutes, ranked last.

Alistair Williamson, chief executive officer of WebCriteria, said more than 23 million adults invest online, a total that has doubled since 1999. “As more and more investors turn to the Internet, brokerage firms must provide a superior online experience or customers will go to one of the many other competitors to manage their investments,” he said.

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