Merrill Edge Online Brokerage Service

••• ® Bank of America Merrill Lynch

Merrill Edge is an online discount brokerage service launched in 2010 by the Merrill Lynch division of Bank of America.

Merrill Edge offers a fundamental difference from the old Merrill Lynch Online (or MLOL). MLOL did not really compete with the discounters. Users paid the same full-service commissions charged in the financial advisor channel. Executive management decided that Merrill Lynch needed an online channel for self-directed investors, but did not want to cannibalize business from its financial advisor channel through discount pricing. Because MLOL offered self-service at a full-service price, it was an unattractive offering that drew a small client base.

Merrill Edge started with a base of about 500,000 clients, transferred from Bank of America's existing online brokerage platform.

Merrill Edge has become a source of contention between Merrill Lynch and its financial advisors, who claim that they are being pressured to move smaller clients onto this platform, without regard for potential growth in their financial assets. Offloading clients this way creates both immediate and long-term compensation losses for the financial advisor. "You can't just tell a client they're too small and then, once they have money, expect to go back to them," says a former Merrill Lynch financial advisor quoted in Bloomberg BusinessWeek ("The Bull Whisperer," 3/7/2011).

Additionally, according to the same article, many Merrill Lynch financial advisors are concerned about the prominent advertisement of Merrill Edge at Bank of America branches, fearing that this dilutes the Merrill Lynch brand.

Merrill Edge (as of July 2015) advertises "simple flat-rate pricing" of only $6.95 per equity or ETF trade in self-directed accounts. Clients can receive up to 30 free trades per month if they have at least $25,000 on deposit across all their Bank of America and Merrill Lynch accounts, or if they meet one of several other criteria.