Street Wire: Merrill Lynch Starts Online Brokerage

The Merrill Lynch division of Bank of America (BAC) is starting an online brokerage, and stocks in TDAmeritrade (AMTD) and Charles Schwab (SCHW) each fell when the news came out. Customer service at Bank of America Online confirmed that the change will occur on Monday, June 21. The service will be called Merrill Edge.

According to The Wall Street Journal, "Bank of America says the service combines the legacy Bank of America Online Investing offering with Merrill Lynch's in-house, or 'proprietary,' research, investment products, retirement-planning tools and advice through the call center." The service will add about 500,000 clients who are currently Bank of America online customers.

The motivation behind the decision is probably that full-service brokers often lose customers to discount brokers because of high fees. Many investors keep two accounts and take advice from full-service brokers, then they trade online. Merrill may not make as much per trade with its online product, but it may retain clients who otherwise would have done business elsewhere.

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