In March 2000, Colombia's InfoFinanciera, with a US$350,000 initial investment, launched a Web site that now includes financial quotes, indicators, investment, and securities. The site, which received the Colombian IT association's best Internet content award last year, planned a November launch of online trading of US stocks.

Then, InfoFinanciera hit a snag.

"We wanted to start online trading, but the US company we were working with, Lexit USA, couldn't start working with us-maybe they had some problems. And for that reason we couldn't start the service of offering American stocks," says Germ n RincUn, InfoFinanciera's CEO.

Consequently, he explains, his company has started the search again for an ally that will enable InfoFinanciera's clients to trade U.S. stocks online. In the meantime, the company has launched a fixed income service on the Internet that includes bonds and public and private debt. InfoFinanciera started marketing the service in January and offering services in March. The company, says RincUn, aims to have only 100 to 200 clients, but "important ones"-insurance companies, banks, trusts and pension funds-with major capital. For InfoFinanciera to cover the costs of the initiative, it need only obtain some 1% to 3% of the fixed income market in Colombia, where 2 billion pesos are traded daily. "In Colombia we are the first company to offer a fixed income marketplace," says RincUn.

RincUn explains that few companies are depending on the growth of online trading in Colombia. "The problem here is the Colombian market is so small and it is not liquid. When you want to invest in stocks you prefer a liquid market," he says.

Rincon does expect that within a few years stock trading, driven by the growth of online stock information allowing consumers to understand the market and make informed decisions, will grow in Columbia.

CALL OUTS

"The reputation of these huge institutions is based on having 1,000 branches all across Mexico, hundreds of years of experience and millions of deposits. And you don't need that."

Adrian Gonzalez

Todito

"In Mexico, although our stock exchange is a small one, there are very good options for investors-mutual funds or money market funds, for instance

Adolfo Herrera

Accival

"I don't see how the others could be profitably only doing online trading, especially with the small and fragmented market that we have."

Marcel Barboza

InvestShop.com

"I have lived through many bear markets, I have been around long enough, and these bear markets bounce back. We have not wavered in our enthusiasm."

Alvaro Catao

iBolsa

PHOTO FOR SIDEBAR

"The problem here is that the Colombian market is so small and it is not liquid. When you want to invest in stocks you prefer a liquid market."

Germ n RincUn

InfoFinanciera

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