On-line investing in Asia needs secure lines and a monitored environment before it can gain the confidence of investors, a Web design company executive says. Ian Bebbington, managing director of FinDatSys (HK), said Hong Kong and Malaysia had fallen behind the United States in establishing market regulations and encrypted lines. This meant investors dealing through the Internet had less security in Asia. Compared to the watchdog role of the territory's Securities and Futures Commission (SFC), the US Securities and Exchange Commission had kept stringent control over on-line markets, he said. '[The SFC] does not actively police it. Instead, it waits for investor complaints. Most investors expect that level of protection to be the same, regardless of jurisdiction, and expect to be able to get redress from courts at home if something went wrong,' Mr Bebbington, a speaker at last week's CyberTrading Hewlett-Packard (HP), explored aspects of on-line securities trading. Investment firms reported that the biggest concern of clients considering on-line investing was privacy, FinDatSys said. While encrypted lines were being offered in Hong Kong by firms such as HP, the market remained unsophisticated, Mr Bebbington said. In the US, clients might open accounts and deal with up to four different exchanges. The territory also lacked direct on-line links from Internet service providers to the computer systems of private companies, Mr Bebbington said. 'Web sites in Hong Kong are not yet offering investors the [chance] to look after their accounts or portfolios with the broker.' Sophisticated investors had few concerns about trading via the Internet, but needed convincing to switch from conventional means, he said. 'The main problem is going to be marketing.' Mr Bebbington said the electronic market had great potential to attract home-computer users looking to make their first investment. 'Where the general public is interested in markets, the Internet can promote that.'