Where do you think you're going, fleeing E*Trade
With defections apparently starting to stabilize at the beleaguered discount broker, E*Trade is launching what it calls "an aggressive customer win-back campaign" this morning.
As you can imagine, the past few months have been rough at E*Trade, after its mortgage business was snagged in subprime quicksand. Despite the wide nets of SIPC and FDIC protection, accountholders fearing the worst have flocked to steadier alternatives.
Last month, the company got a $2.5 billion cash infusion, partly from a private equity investment, and partly from a Nov. 29 distressed-asset fire sale, in which E*Trade sold off some of its riskiest assets for pennies on the dollar. That extra money seems to be doing the trick.
Spin, win, and begin again
"A $2.5 billion vote of confidence," E*Trade trumpets on its landing page. Since E*Trade's coffers are ultimately more reliable, you can't blame the company for bragging about the write-down, or shell-shocked patrons for being willing to give the company another chance.
Customer cash and deposits have held steady at $33 billion over the past three weeks, according to the company. It's a far cry from the $40 billion that the company held at the end of September, but there's comfort in knowing that the tourniquet has successfully stopped the company's bleeding. We will get beefier account metrics when the company reports its fourth-quarter financials next month.
Two days ago, E*Trade held its Customer Appreciation Day, in which customers traded for free all day long. This follows November's not-so-official Shareholder Depreciation Month, in which E*Trade's stock plummeted by 59%.
That's bad, but it's got nothing on Shareholder Depreciation Year. E*Trade investors have seen their shares lose 85% of their value this year.
All we are saying is give E*Trade a chance
This morning's press release is skimpy on the details. A more complete description of its operational plan will arrive with next month's quarterly report. However, it's a safe bet that E*Trade will make sure to keep its stock commissions low and its savings product yields high, to ultimately attract more clients than it loses to rivals, conventional banks, and mattresses.
Investors have been known to give companies second chances. Mutual fund families like Janus
I won't hide under a blanket, teary-eyed, to screech "Leave E*Trade alone!" Still, one would think that the discounter has suffered enough at this point.
Give it a chance, but not because you're compassionate. Do it because the company will bend over backwards to tempt you with goodies like a 5.05% yield on its no-minimum savings account, or Wednesday's commission-eradicating free trading day.
With full-service giants like Morgan Stanley
Rivals like Charles Schwab
Over? No relationship is ever truly over.
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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz believes in self-service gasoline pumps and self-service stock brokerages. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.