Time For Online Investing to Change and Demonstrate Credibility to Individual Investors

 

For online investing to be treated seriously as a viable option the companies involved need to demonstrate commitment to investors.

When online investment programmes first started they quickly gained a bad reputation as many of them were revealed as scams. This severely damaged the public view of these opportunities and that perception still exists.

I believe it is time for things to change. The global economic crisis has shown that even well respected financial institutions cared little for their small investors with the result that interest rates on savings accounts are now derisory.

This is a golden opportunity for online investing companies to attract these disillusioned people but they must do it in a credible and honest way.

Is regulation the answer?

Nearly all online investments make it abundantly clear that their dealings fall outside any existing regulatory framework as they want to avoid members running to the authorities at the merest hint of a problem.

There are many horror stories where online investment companies have fallen foul of regulators (especially in the US) and the result has virtually always been losses for investors. So, I don’t believe online investing companies would currently welcome regulation under current legislation. Ultimately, this may be an aspiration as authorities learn and understand more about how these companies work.

Where to Start

So if formal regulation isn’t viable what alternatives exist? Some companies may argue that their industry is currently being regulated by the myriad of online monitoring sites as these demonstrate whether programmes are paying or not.

Personally I don’t believe this is the answer as monitoring sites can only work in a reactive way and are not that useful for predicting whether an opportunity is viable to start off with.

To my way of thinking there are two options to consider:

  1. An independent group of investors could be set up to undertake due diligence on a programme that wishes to offer online investing services. They would need access to the company to be able to verify the claims that are being made on how funds are generated and the people involved
  2. A self regulating body set up by the companies themselves which would define a code of practice that companies would need to adhere to if they wish to join. This should also include investor representatives as this is a key element of trust building

Time for Change

For too long online investors have suffered poor service, patchy communication and untrustworthy programme administrators. As I look at some of the online programmes today I can see that things are changing but we are still not at a point where the ordinary investor would consider an online investment as a viable alternative to basic savings accounts for example.

Clearly there will always be greater risk involved in online investments but I don’t think programmes should hide behind that as an excuse for poor service. If the risks are explained fully and clearly, if programmes communicate often and honestly then I believe the industry would reap great rewards both in terms of their own reputations but also in the number of people that would trust them with their investments.

Isn’t it time online investors were offered a better and more reliable service…

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