Friends Don't Let Friends Invest And
There are just some things you just shouldn't do while you're driving.
Shopping, of course, is one of those activities. (See "Friends
Don't Let Friends Shop And Drive." ) I think investing is another one.
True, "mobile investing" -- accessing stock portfolios and
quotes over a mobile phone -- has been around for a while now. So, why my
OnStar and Fidelity Investments recently announced an alliance that
will allow OnStar subscribers to monitor, manage, and trade in their
Fidelity personal investing accounts through their voice-enabled Virtual
Advisor service platform -- another kind of mobile investing. (Communications
ASP editorial director Laura Guevin wrote an excellent
column about the OnStar technology and deployment.) Basically, this
partnership allows drivers to cruise the open highway and day trade, all
without lifting a hand from the steering wheel. Currently, OnStar
Virtual Advisor is available only in the Northeast, but it's schedule to
be nationwide in
late spring. If subscribers aren't Fidelity customers, they'll only be
able to access quotes, watch lists, and listen to market information through their Virtual
In addition to financial data, OnStar subscribers will be able
to access Internet-based information including e-mail, stock quotes,
sports reports, news, and weather. But, will they be able to shop? I hope
Who Will Use This Service?
OnStar's Virtual Advisor seems like a good idea for
those of us with hectic schedules. Most of my friends and family fall into
that category (their occupations include financial managers, teachers, chemical
engineers, a vet, and a professor), but I still have a hard time envisioning them driving
while surfing their portfolios, getting balance information, and
selling shares without a care in the worldexcept the road and oncoming
traffic. Who really has the time or inclination (and for some of us
money!) to micromanage their portfolios in this manner?
pointed out this service is probably not marketed to my age group
or income bracket, which would partially explain why I have such a hard
time relating to the idea and practicality of it. If you watch the demo
video Fidelity Investment provides on their site, you'll encounter
their ideal client -- a very nicely dressed, well-coiffed, middle-aged
woman driving along some American highway effortlessly checking her
portfolio and trading some of her stock. Maybe she's on her way to work,
between meetings, en route to a soccer game, or just running errands.
Regardless of her final destination, OnStar wants you to believe the
Virtual Advisor has made her life easier and empowered her to take control
and manager her portfolio.
While Jane Doe may be able to trade like a pro from her Volvo station
wagon, there still remains the issue of security. How secure are wireless
transactions? With all the horror hacker Internet stories -- particularly
ones of stealing thousands of credit card numbers from well-established
financial institutions like Citibank -- regularly highlighting in the nightly
news, one has to question whether the convenience of wireless trading is
worth the risk. According to Intelliquest,
security is cited as a major concern and barrier to conducting
transactions over wireless networks.
If I were that woman who had a balance in the Fidelity video of
$200,000 in her IRA account and $95,000 in her 401K, I'm not sure I would
be too quick to jump on the wireless trading wagonno matter how
convenient. $200,000 is a lot of money to lose to some wise-guy 16 year-old
hacking systems just for the challenge of getting in!
Now that your hands can stay firmly on the steering wheel, the OnStar Virtual Advisor seems to be
a much safer way of making your driving experience more interactive, right?
Less distracting than even fiddling with the radio or CD player? With the
radio, one hand is adjusting the tuner while the
other one controls the car. At least with Virtual Advisor, your voice can do the all
Of course the level of concentration is a little different, especially
if you're trading from stock from your portfolio. Checking the news or
sports requires the same amount of thought as if you were listening to it
over the radio. Call me crazy, but wouldn't you want all of your attention
focused on your financial transactions? With the flow of traffic and that
car tailing too closely, it's easy imagine a mistake being made in a
transaction. Or what about not seeing the traffic slowing down for an
accident, because you were so focused on how much of that Lucent stock you
I may sound like I'm anti- innovation -- a strange
characteristic for a communications industry columnist. I'm not. It's just that I
question the practicality of mobile investing for the everyday Jane and John
Doe who don't really need to micromanage their portfolios in this
manner. Maybe I'll test drive a vehicle with OnStar and give this new way
of investing a whirl. Until then, I stand by my initial statement: Friends
don't let friends invest and drive.
Mia Carley welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
|If Your Car Isn't
Blessed With OnStar...
In case your car doesn't have the
OnStar service, there are other ways of mobile investing on the road. With the advent of speech recognition on mobile phones and
the proliferation of ear buds (with microphones part way down the
chord) -- users can now have both hands free. Yahoo!
has just begun beta tests on Interactive
InvestorREACH services. Shareholders can access Yahoo!
investor information from any phone using voice commands. (See Communications
Solutions managing editor Carol
Drzewianowski's recent column, "SimplySpeech."
) If your phone is speech-enabled, you could have the same
type of service through your mobile phone, rather than your car.