Bank of America Merrill Lynch rolled out the Merrill Edge platform on Monday, June 21, to give new and existing customers discount online trading, banking and other services.
The online-trading services are being offered to some clients at a discount when compared to fees generally charged by Charles Schwab and TD Ameritrade.
With balances of $25,000 or more in some accounts, investors can make up to 30 equity or ETF trades for free. For others, and when more than 30 trades per month take place, there are charges of $4.95 or $8.95 per trade.
Merrill is reportedly aiming to target investors with $250,000 or less in investable assets, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Investors opening certain accounts on the site and with more than $20,000 to invest may also seek advice from advisers, who are not part of Merrill Lynch’s full-service brokerage force, by phone.
“Merrill Edge is a unique business and platform that is a direct example of the power and combination of Bank of America with Merrill Lynch,” the company said in a statement. “Merrill Edge allows us to uniquely serve clients across all wealth segments and across all life with the full breadth of solutions – cash management to investments.”
The platform gives clients the option of making their investment decisions on their own via or getting financial advice via the Merrill Edge Advisory Center, a phone-based advice channel.
It was described briefly by Sallie Krawcheck, head of BofA’s wealth-management operations, in February. She told Reuters at the time that Merrill wanted to help investors who wanted to do a bit of trading and also to target “the next generation [of investors] who are feeling pretty hurt by the downturn.”
“Merrill Edge will bring to life the integration of the two legacy companies,” Bank of America (BAC) and Merrill Lynch, the company said in a statement on Monday. “By combining the investment expertise of Merrill Lynch and the global banking strength of BAC, Merrill Edge will allow clients to seamlessly manage investing and banking on their terms across an unprecedented level of access – branch, online and phone.”
Existing clients are beginning to receive communications about changes to their current accounts, and legacy Bank of America clients will get moved onto the platform by the end of the third quarter, the company says.
The bank plans to begin advertising the Merrill Edge platform more extensively either later this year or early next year.
Merrill Lynch is the third-largest wirehouse broker-dealer in terms of advisors with 15,005 in the first quarter of 2010 vs. 18,140 for Morgan Stanley Smith Barney and 15, 119 for Wells Fargo Advisors.
It is the second-largest in terms of assets under management in its wealth-management unit with $1.45 trillion vs. $1.5 trillion for Morgan Stanley.
However, in terms of average assets per advisor, Merrill stands at about $97 million per FA vs. Morgan Stanley with $88 million. UBS, with roughly 6,900 FAs in the Americas and $690 billion in assets in the region, reports that its advisors have about $100 million on average.