Why Did Morgan Stanley Buy E-Trade; A Strategic Move Explained

Morgan Stanley’s acquisition of E TRADE in February 2020 was a defining moment in the world of financial services, marking a significant shift in the landscape of banking and brokerage. With a price tag of $13 billion, it was the largest deal ever made by a major U.S. bank since the financial crisis of 2008. So, why did this established Wall Street giant decide to purchase a primarily online brokerage? Let’s delve into the reasons behind this landmark deal.

Why Did Morgan Stanley Buy E-Trade

1. Diversifying Client Base:

Morgan Stanley, traditionally seen as a bank serving the ultra-wealthy, diversified its clientele with this acquisition. E*TRADE’s 5.2 million retail customers, along with their $360 billion in assets, offered Morgan Stanley a broader customer base that spanned not just the ultra-rich, but also the mass affluent.

2. Boosting Digital Capabilities:

The purchase of E*TRADE was a strategic move to rapidly enhance Morgan Stanley’s digital offerings. In an era where online banking and robo-advisory services have become the norm, acquiring a company with a robust digital platform allowed Morgan Stanley to accelerate its digital transformation without having to build from the ground up.

3. Strengthening the Wealth Management Portfolio:

Wealth management is a highly lucrative sector and provides stable revenues, especially when other areas, like trading, might be volatile. By integrating E*TRADE’s services, Morgan Stanley augmented its wealth management segment, ensuring a more diverse and steady stream of revenue.

4. Capitalizing on Cost Synergies:

Mergers often bring with them the advantage of cost savings. By consolidating operations, technology, and other services, Morgan Stanley projected around $400 million in cost synergies from the E*TRADE acquisition.

5. Navigating the Zero-Fee Landscape:

When major brokerages started to move toward a zero-fee model for stock trades, it put pressure on revenues. By acquiring ETRADE, Morgan Stanley could better navigate this new landscape by leveraging ETRADE’s scale and technology to generate income in other creative ways.

6. Expansion into Direct-to-Consumer Market:

Before the acquisition, Morgan Stanley primarily operated with intermediaries, whether that be financial advisors or other middlemen. With E*TRADE, they made a bold move into the direct-to-consumer space, allowing them to serve a wider audience without intermediaries.


Morgan Stanley’s acquisition of E*TRADE wasn’t just about buying another company; it was about strategically positioning itself for the future of finance. In an ever-evolving industry where digital services, direct consumer relationships, and diversified revenue streams are paramount, this move can be seen as a forward-thinking effort to stay ahead of the curve.

While only time will reveal the long-term impact of this acquisition, it’s clear that Morgan Stanley’s decision to purchase E*TRADE was rooted in a vision of a transformed financial landscape and the desire to be a dominant player in that space.

by Abdullah Sam
I’m a teacher, researcher and writer. I write about study subjects to improve the learning of college and university students. I write top Quality study notes Mostly, Tech, Games, Education, And Solutions/Tips and Tricks. I am a person who helps students to acquire knowledge, competence or virtue.

Leave a Comment