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Morgan Stanley buys E-Trade in $13B bet on smaller customers
Morgan Stanley to acquire E-Trade for $13 billion
Morgan Stanley is officially buying E-Trade for $13 billion.
Morgan Stanley is buying E*Trade Financial Corp. in a $13 billion deal that will reshape the storied investment bank and firmly stake its future on managing money for regular people.
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The all-stock takeover, announced Thursday, will combine a Wall Street firm in the late innings of a decadelong turnaround with a discount broker built on the backs of dot-com day traders. It is the biggest takeover by a giant U.S. bank since the 2008 crisis.
E*Trade brings 5 million retail customers, their $360 billion in assets and an online bank with cheap deposits that Morgan Stanley can funnel into loans. Its CEO, Michael Pizzi, is coming along to run the e-brokerage business, which will keep its brand, its handful of retail storefronts and its buzzy and well-funded ad campaigns, Morgan Stanley Chief Executive James Gorman said.
E*Trade’s future has been uncertain since November, when its two main competitors, Charles Schwab Corp. and TD Ameritrade Holding Corp., announced their own merger. Schwab had thrown an elbow weeks before by cutting the trading fees it charges customers to zero. The move sent E*Trade shares tumbling and raised questions about whether the brokerage, dwarfed by a merged competitor, could survive alone.
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Morgan Stanley already has 15,500 human advisers catering to millionaires and last year rolled out an online-only tool for customers with less money and less-complicated financial lives. E*Trade will slot into that wealth-management arm, which will have more than eight million users and $3.1 trillion in client money once the deal closes.
“We’ll take on Schwab. We’ll take on Fidelity,” Mr. Gorman, now in his 10th year as CEO, said in an interview. “This isn’t about legacy-building; it’s about getting [Morgan Stanley] ready for prime time.”
E*Trade became a household name in the late 1990s with its dot-com vibe and splashy Super Bowl commercials. Falling commissions have hurt its brokerage arm and low interest rates have cut into the money it makes by investing the idle cash its customers leave in their accounts.
Its crown jewel is a comparatively low-profile business: managing the stock that employees at hundreds of companies receive as part of their pay. Those shares are typically locked up for a few years and when they become available, E*Trade aims to move those employees into brokerage accounts.