Merrill Lynch is looking to compete with E*Trade--not necessarily for online investors, but for online shoppers.
Randall Langdon, Merrill's director of digital business development in Princeton, N.J., says that the firm has "a very substantial e-commerce enhancement coming down the road" sometime this fall.
Currently, Merrill's clients can shop online on its Web site with about 50 merchants, but that's going to be increased to "400 to 600 merchants and hundreds of thousands of products," Langdon says. "The Merrill Lynch objective is to enhance the experience of clients online [and] leverage our efforts with the Visa Signature program."
Why shop at Merrill instead of Wal-Mart? Either a cheaper price or an offer of more rewards points from the firm's commerce hub, Langdon says.
Palo Alto, Calif.-based E*Trade is working on a similar strategy of building its online brokerage business into an online shopping portal.