Morgan Stanley buys E-Trade in $13 billion shakeup to brokerage market

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Morgan Stanley is buying E-Trade in a $13 billion, all stock deal, the bank announced Thursday, bringing more consolidation to the brokerage market and giving Morgan Stanley a foothold with middle income customers.

The deal, which is the biggest takeover by a major U.S. bank since the 2008 financial crisis, combines Morgan Stanley's prowess and client-facing resources with E-Trade's more than 5 million customers, with over $360 billion in retail trade assets, the companies said in a news release. Morgan Stanley boasts more than 3 million clients with $2.7 trillion in assets under management.

"Wall Street banks continue to covet Main Street customers," Greg McBride, chief financial analyst for, said in comments emailed to The Post. "Morgan Stanley's acquisition of E-Trade gives them access to brokerage customers, employees with company stock, and the lifeblood of financial services - low cost retail bank deposits."

Morgan Stanley's shares slumped more than 4.7 percent in premarket trading after the deal was announced. E-Trade's shares skyrocketed more than 22 percent.

Expected to close in the final quarter of 2020, the deal comes on the heels of the $26 billion merger announcement of Charles Schwab and TD Ameritrade in November, which joined the discount brokerage giants who had revolutionize the industry by making stock trading more affordable and accessible to the masses. It signaled the industry's shift from a commission-heavy revenue stream to one more reliant on interest income and client services, and raised questions about how E-Trade would survive now that it was outmatched by its newly-combined competitors. The Schwab and Ameritrade merger could still be stalled by anti-trust issues. If it wins approval, it is expected to close late this year.

Some analysts had predicted the digital broker would become a target for Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs. Founded in 1991 as a digital brokerage startup, E-Trade has been a leading force in the industry for decades, while enjoying household recognition thanks to its goofy commercials. In addition to its trading services, E-Trade also provides a full suite of digital banking services, including direct integration with brokerage accounts and checking and high-yield savings accounts. E-Trade brings with it roughly $56 billion in low-cost deposits each year, a major bonus for Morgan Stanley as moves into consumer finance.

"E-Trade's products, innovation in technology, and established brand will help position Morgan Stanley as a top player across all three channels: Financial Advisory, Self-Directed, and Workplace," James Gorman, chairman and chief executive of Morgan Stanley said in a news release. "In addition, this continues the decade-long transition of our Firm to a more balance sheet light business mix, emphasizing more durable sources of revenue."

The brokerage industry has been dramatically re-shaped by the race to zero commissions, which started last October when Schwab slashed its online commission fees. Fidelity and E-Trade soon followed suit, raising questions about how the industry would pivot from its commission-driven business model. The competition has been heightened by retail investors choosing low- and zero-cost index funds and leaving the stock-picking market.

"Between zero trading commissions and competitive yielding savings accounts and cash management products, the competition for consumers' cash and investments is as fierce as ever," McBride said. "And this reaches a broad spectrum of households, it isn't just the ultra wealthy that are in demand."

Mike Pizzi, E-Trade's chief executive, will stay on after the merger to helm E-Trade within the Morgan Stanley franchise.

"Since we created the digital brokerage category nearly 40 years ago, E-TRADE has consistently disrupted the status quo and delivered cutting-edge tools and services to investors, traders, and stock plan administrators," Pizzi said in a news release. "By joining Morgan Stanley, we will be able to take our combined offering to the next level and deliver an even more comprehensive suite of wealth management capabilities."

E-TRADE stockholders will receive 1.0432 Morgan Stanley shares for each E-TRADE share, a per share consideration of $58.74 based on Morgan Stanley's share price at close Wednesday.


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