This Virtual Broker Has Real Competition

E*Trade battles Charles Schwab, eBroker--and internal bugs

To some, the exploding world of electronic commerce is an exciting frontier. But to Christos M. Cotsakos, the animated chief executive of E*Trade Group Inc., it's also a war zone. "We're the infantry on the beach," says Cotsakos, whose brokerage service was first to stake a claim in online trading in 1992. It is now battling new competitors, fixing snafus, and preparing to be the first firm of its kind to go public. By being first, "you get blood on your spear, but you know the terrain better than anybody," he says.

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