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What a $13 billion deal means for investors

Morgan Stanley said Thursday that it is buying online brokerage E*Trade for about $13 billion, a sign that Wall Street banks continue to covet Main Street customers.

The deal, analysts say, gives Morgan Stanley access to brokerage customers, employees with company stock and low-cost retail bank deposits, which are the lifeblood of financial services. 

The trend of zero trading commissions, competitive savings account yields and cash management products shows “the competition for consumers’ cash and investments is as fierce as ever,” Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at, said in a note. This deal, he continued, reaches a broad spectrum of households and signals “it isn’t just the ultra-wealthy that are in demand.”

E*Trade has over 5.2 million client accounts with over $360 billion of retail client assets, adding to Morgan Stanley’s existing 3 million client relationships and $2.7 trillion of client assets.

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Morgan Stanley released better-than-expected first-quarter financial results before the markets opened on Wednesday.

E*TRADE provides a suite of digital banking services, including direct integration with brokerage accounts, checking and high-yield savings accounts, which could significantly accelerate Morgan Stanley’s digital banking efforts. The transaction adds about $56 billion of low-cost deposits, which is expected to provide funding benefits to Morgan Stanley. 

The deal follows a wave of consolidation in the industry. On Tuesday, asset manager Franklin Resources announced a deal to buy Legg Mason for $4.5 billion. In November, brokerage firm Charles Schwab agreed to buy TD Ameritrade for about $26 billion. 

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