And the winner is ... Salomon Smith Barney. SSB captured the race to become the first full-service brokerage firm to offer clients extended trading hours. The firm launched the new service this past month. It allows clients to invest in about 200 actively traded Nasdaq and NYSE stocks Monday through Thursday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern Time.
But one Central California-based SSB broker says the service was instituted "just to trump Merrill Lynch because they trumped us earlier with their online service. So we had to trump 'em back.
"I'm leery of it," the rep adds. "I think it's more of a marketing thing out of New York than anything else. ... I'm one of those brokers who thinks that it won't be very significant." This rep also wonders about execution quality in an after-hours session.
But a Los Angeles-area broker counters that, "I think it's great that we're giving clients the opportunity to do this."
"I wouldn't give it the thumbs up, yet I understand that from the firm's point of view it's important to offer clients as much access to the market as possible," says another rep, who works for SSB in Orange County, Calif. "While I think it's good to be the first, I don't think a majority of our clients will use the service."
Clients will be able to execute trades directly through an 800 number. SSB, which partnered with MarketXT Inc. to provide the new service, has implemented a system that will indicate when a trade was made during the extended-hours period.
Will longer trading hours force brokers to work additional hours?
"Not for some of us," says the Los Angeles-area broker. "My day is 14 to 15 hours long anyway."
But the Central California broker, who gets up at 5 a.m. so he can get into his office by 6 a.m. admits, "I may be tempted to stay in bed for another half hour or 45 minutes."