Stock analyst wasn’t Christopher Rees’ first career choice – or his second, third or fourth. But in 2000, after 30 years of working odd jobs (tailor, short-order cook, waiter) to fund his travels around the world, the native of England decided to finally settle down and give full-time investing a shot. So he sold his sailboat, moved to the affordable Dominican Republic with $50,000 in savings and began spending 14 hours a day fishing for deep-value stocks. Today, he sells his portfolio picks and investing strategies to other investors online, through one of several growing investing social sites.
Websites that connect regular investors have been around for a long time, starting with bulletin boards in late 1990s and evolving into today’s more sophisticated networks for sharing stock picks and tracking performance. But they’ve only recently hit critical mass – and with that, several of their participants have been able to parlay their internet fame into a part-time salary. Never mind that these analysts, like Rees, often don’t have MBAs or any Wall Street experience – all it takes is an internet connection and a little chutzpah.
In the past five years, several online brokerages, including E*Trade, Charles Schwab, Trade King, Zecco and Scottrade, launched online communities that allow regular investors to share their buys and sells with each other. And participation is growing: Membership at the networks — excluding E*Trade’s, which was launched in March — combined reached 463,500 in April, up 13% from September, according to Alan Maginn, senior analyst at Corporate Insight, a market research firm for financial companies. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw another brokerage come out with an online community this year,” he says.