Despite the downturn, hordes of investment board sites purporting to offer the latest and greatest stock tips still crowd the Internet. But in today's more conservative market, discriminating investors are looking for substance rather than sound bites. Fortunately, the post-Enron era has spurred a handful of boards that explore big-picture issues of interest to investors, such as corporate governance and mutual fund fees. The site www.eraider.com, for example, is devoted largely to shareholder activism, charging that "owning a stock is owning a business, with all the rights and responsibilities that implies."
Other message board sites seek to up their expertise. At www.marketocracy.com, only portfolio managers whose performances rank in the top 25 percent can post missives. The Value Investors Club is even more discriminating: It's 250 investors are pre-screened by Columbia Business School professor Joel Greenblatt and partners from his New York City-based hedge fund Gotham Capital. Want to see if you make the grade? Try it out at www.valueinvestorsclub.com.
Giving You the Finger
Tired of the hassles of handling cash? With biometric point of sale systems, customers can leave their wallets at home and pay by fingerprint.
"There's an easy enrollment where an employee verifies a customer's identification and enters that information into the system," explains Ron Smith, president and CEO of Round Rock, Texas-based Biometric Access Corp., which makes the Secure Touch-n-Pay system. "Customers put each index finger down and enroll the forms of payment they want to use. From then on, all they have to do is punch in their VIP numbers and put their fingers down."
It seems like science fiction, but the system is familiar to Kroger store customers in Bryan/College Station, Texas, where Secure Touch-n-Pay is being tested. And McDonald's patrons in Fresno, California, are using a similar program by Oakland, California-based Indivos, a Biometric Access competitor.
For customers, the systems offer convenience. And merchants improve efficiency and customer loyalty, and reduce fraud loss. "If I spend three extra minutes in a checkout line, my view goes downhill," points out Smith. "We're speed and efficiency freaks today."
Jennifer Pellet is a freelance writer in New York City specializing in business and finance.