Hong Kong's first on-line foreign exchange service aimed at retail investors was launched yesterday by French investment bank SG and its derivatives trading arm Fimat. The brokerage said the real-time service, eFXtrade, would allow retail investors to trade in a market that had been dominated by institutions. 'It enables investors to access a market and a technology that until now have only been available to professional traders,' Fimat's general manager Alain Bozzi said. Customers must have a minimum of US$20,000 to open an on-line foreign exchange trading account on eFXtrade. The accounts have a margin requirement of 8 per cent of the opening position, which allows customers to have leverage of 12.5 times. The brokerage expects to have 10,000 to 15,000 customers in Hong Kong within the next two years and add Asian currencies that can be traded through the service. At present the service offers trades between US dollars, euros, sterling, yen, Swiss francs and Australian dollars. 'We plan to develop emerging currencies on a short-term view but we need to take care of the role of the regulator,' SG Asia foreign exchange and derivative sales head Vincent Lauwick said. The brokerage launched the service in Hong Kong because of investors' needs for currency risk hedging and willingness to embrace new technologies. Mr Lauwick said: 'Hong Kong's taste for, and full usage of, new technologies such as wireless communications and the Internet has created a ready market for fast and reliable on-line trading services.' Subscribers will also be able to chart currencies and receive business news stories. The on-line service is expected to be further developed to include stocks and bonds. 'We plan to be soon in a position to offer the full spectrum of financial products including foreign exchange, stocks and other investment tools on-line to all our clients, wherever they may be based,' Mr Lauwick said. Fimat thus far has specialised in futures, commodities and options broking.