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Extended Hours Will Require New Hires

NEW YORK - Extended trading hours may require a second, perhaps even a third, shift of mutual fund portfolio managers, compliance officers, lawyers, service providers and back-office personnel.

That was the opinion of attorneys who spoke last week at a conference on investment management regulation organized by Glasser LegalWorks of New York, a sponsor of legal conferences.

The attorneys said that although their opinions run counter to the views of some portfolio managers who have commented publicly, they are sure liquidity will gain momentum and extend the workday at mutual fund companies.

Online brokerage companies have begun offering after-hours trading on electronic communication networks and the New York Stock Exchange and NASDAQ plan to extend their trading hours because they anticipate a great demand and want to remain competitive, the attorneys said.

Volume on the New York Stock Exchange has more than quadrupled in the past seven years from 40 million trades a day in 1991 to 170 million trades a day in 1998, said Anthony Evangelista, a partner with PricewaterhouseCoopers of New York. That volume is likely to continue to grow and to move into the after hours, he said. In fact, he said, "Seamless 24-hour global trading is inevitable."

Eric Roiter, vice president and general counsel at Fidelity Management and Research Company of Boston, said he believes liquidity is more than likely to develop in the after hours because right now trades during those hours are going overseas.

"Extended-hour trading is a matter of competing with foreign markets and [attracting] the order flow that now goes to those markets," said Richard Phillips, senior partner and head of the securities group at Kirkpatrick & Lockhart LLP of Washington, D.C.

"If the [after-hours] market becomes deep and liquid in buying and selling interest, we will be there to adjust to that reality," Roiter said. Should that happen, the SEC may recommend that fund companies move their daily net asset valuations from the current 4 p.m. standard to later times in order to provide investors with fair valuations, said Douglas Scheidt, associate director and chief counsel of the division of investment management at the SEC.

Also, if extended trading hours become active, it will require the availability of portfolio managers to monitor the markets and possibly employ additional hedging strategies, said Evangelista. Fund companies will also need back office personnel on hand to clear and settle trades, technology staff to keep trading systems running, and compliance and legal officers to handle regulatory, risk and tax issues, he said.