Does the Internet Increase Trading? Evidence from Investor Behavior in 401(K) Plans
We analyze the impact of a Web-based trading channel on the trading activity in two corporate 401(k) plans. Using detailed data on about 100,000 participants, we compare trading growth in these firms to growth for a sample of firms without a Web channel. After 18 months of access, the inferred Web effect is very large: trading frequency doubles, and portfolio turnover rises by over 50 percent. We also document several patterns of Web-trading behavior. Young, male, and wealthy participants are more likely to try the Web channel. Frequent traders (before Web introduction) are less likely to try the Web. Participants who try the Web tend to stick with it. Web trades tend to be smaller than phone trades both in dollars and as a fraction of portfolio. Short-term' trades make up a higher proportion of phone trades than of Web trades.
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