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What Charles Schwab's Purchase of Rival TD Ameritrade Means for Their Customers

Michael Tedder

Online brokerage Charles Schwab said Monday it plans to purchase rival TD Ameritrade for $26 billion in stock. That could mean changes to the way millions of Americans invest.

The blockbuster deal, which had been rumored for the past week, is expected to close by the end of 2020. Once combined, the two companies will boast 24 million clients and more than $5 trillion in assets — with $3.8 trillion coming from Schwab and $1.3 trillion coming from TD Ameritrade.

According to terms of the deal, shareholders of Schwab will own 69% of the combined company, while TD Ameritrade’s investors will own 18%, and TD Bank — TD Ameritrade’s parent — will own the remaining 13%. The price represents a 17% premium for Ameritrade stockholders, according to CNBC.

The move is seen as a sign that price-wars and technological disruptions in the brokerage industry aren’t likely to abate any time soon. Just last month, Charles Schwab eliminated commissions for stock, ETF and options trades. Fidelity, E-Trade and TD Ameritrade quickly followed, and The New York Times posits that more firms are likely to ditch the fees in the future.

Wells Fargo senior analyst Mike Mayo earlier said the Schwab-TD Ameritrade deal would create “a Goliath in wealth management,” and predicted a deal would lead to $1.8 billion to $2 billion in cost cuts. Shares of Schwab closed up 2% Monday. Shares of Ameritrade were up nearly 8%.

So what does this mean for the companies’ customers and everyone else?

Expect to see still more free stuff, such as zero-commission stock trades and zero-fee asset management products, says Alois Pirker, research director for Aite Group. “Offering base services for free and then up-selling value-added services, is something I would expect more of, as they have more clout and scale to deliver that,” he says. “Obviously, the bigger you are, the more you can stomach those types of business models, because you are spreading your costs along a larger client base”

Pirker also predicted the combined company would seek to shut some of its brick-and-mortar brokerage branches, although the new joint network would likely remain larger than either firm’s existing network. Schwab currently has 355 U.S. branches, according to its latest annual reportTD Ameritrade has 360.

“So from a retail, consumer-perspective we’re going to see a firm that is broader-based across the US, with more branches and it will be able to provide convenient access to more consumers,” says Pirker.