Merrill Lynch plans to offer the online services now available to retail clients, such as research and trading, to institutions worldwide. No timetable has been set.
Merrill's service expansion is part of a five-year development deal with Multex.com, sponsor of www.multexinvestor.com. The Web portal for retail investors offers research from more than 700 brokerage firms. As part of the arrangement, announced in December, Merrill took a 5 percent stake in Multex. Terms were not disclosed.
Laurence Tosi, Merrill's director of business development, says Merrill and Multex will be "building out and advancing the research component" of Merrill's online institutional services.
Merrill is one of several key Multex sponsors. Other sponsors include Salomon Smith Barney, Prudential Securities, Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, Gruntal, Interstate Johnson Lane and Robertson Stephens.
Jim Tousignant, Multex executive vice president in New York, says he's in talks with other unnamed Multex sponsors about developing services for institutions.
Multex also builds, hosts and operates Web sites for about 70 brokerage firms, including Merrill Lynch OnLine.
This past April, Merrill formed a new unit called Direct Markets to focus on improving electronic services to its institutional and corporate clients. Working with Multex will help "move the ball" to get global research out in a more personalized form, Tosi says. For example, German institutions will get content directed to a German audience. Merrill and Multex will also develop the ability to send out real-time alerts via cell phones and pagers, he adds.
Eventually, Merrill is going to give its institutional clients the opportunity to enter trades via the Web.