During a tour of the Central office of US online trading pioneer eTrade last week, I was graciously treated to a demonstration of the company's latest foreign-exchange trading platform. To the firm's credit, the system was exactly as advertised: user-friendly, comprehensive in currency choices with 89 pairings and most importantly, efficient. Perhaps too efficient, for some of us. While experimenting with the system, however, I realised that users had only to click the 'trade' button once before the transaction went through - irrevocably. Unlike most online trading services, which prompt users to confirm their transactions, the eTrade system offers the user no chance to reconsider. ETrade retail services chief Michael Fong pointed out that having an 'uh, wait-a-sec' feature would be unnecessary, given its targeted customers - 'super-active' traders who, presumably, should know better than to key in transaction details anything less than perfectly. Super-active traders, according to Mr Fong, are defined as those who trade on average between nine and 27 times per month. Some eTrade retail investors make as many as 1,000 trades. Certainly traders of this calibre would be annoyed if compelled needlessly to make an extra click, Mr Fong said. A valid point - 1,000 extra clicks per month could prove irritating indeed. brownie points for elite CitiGold, the wealth management arm of Citigroup, last week announced the launch of a new programme for elite customers. The most significant upgrade, according to regional head of retail banking Jonathan Larsen, is that customers can earn reward points not only from credit-card spending, but also from other banking activities such as depositing and opening accounts. interest weighs on fund With the US Federal Reserve finally raising rates, the conventional expectation has been that Hong Kong banks will follow suit with the next rate rise expected next month or September. Naturally, those who have invested in interest-rate sensitive products, including guaranteed funds, will be holding their breath. Not to worry. According to certain financial planners, if your intention was to use the funds as an alternative to time deposits, a guaranteed return of less than 10 per cent after a few years should be seen as a decent reward, since you don't really have to worry about making investment decisions or keeping an eye on daily market movements. However, if you are one of those people who enjoy moving money around for the highest potential return, tying up your funds for a long period while watching your friends make big bucks in the stock market could cause serious depression. Last week, ING Investment Management launched a guaranteed fund that could help tackle the problem. While most fund houses tend to keep the principle until maturity, the 'Global Sector Leaders Guaranteed Fund' will release 25 per cent of the principle without penalty every year from the fourth year. heavily mortgaged Before yesterday's Bank of East Asia interim results, this week's biggest finance story had to be the Hong Kong Mortgage Corporation's decision to launch its 95 per cent mortgage insurance programme. While we wondered whether this would serve as a well-timed boost to the plateaued property market or, as sceptics fear, a trigger for more irresponsible lending that could ultimately doom our society, Hong Kong's two largest banks have quietly - well, relatively quietly - launched a second front in the war for mortgage business. With arguably the biggest market share, Bank of China on Wednesday introduced a mortgage scheme offering home buyers an annualised interest rate of 0.88 per cent for the first six months, and 2.65 to 2.7 per cent under the prime rate for subsequent years. HSBC's salvo, also unveiled on Wednesday, is more subtle - an extension of its Supreme Rate Mortgage offer - 1.18 per cent for the first 12 months and 2.7 points under prime thereafter - until the end of next month, it cited 'overwhelming response received from customers since the product was launched in February'. Mind you, the Supreme Rate Mortgage offer is available only to the supremely well-off: the bank's Premier customers - those with $500,000 sequestered in HSBC accounts - and non-Premier customers applying for loans worth more than $3 million.