Remember the old courtship axiom? “First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes [someone] with a baby carriage”?

E*Trade (NYSE:ETFC) is brilliantly turning those old words around. Last month, it was the baby carriage -- the success of its trading infant television ads. Today, we get the marriage. E*Trade's new CEO is so willing to tie his fortunes to the company's that his incentive compensation over the next two years will consist solely of equity.

I guess that means it's now up to Mr. Market to find out whether love is in the cards.

E*Trade has come a long way toward debunking the shorts, who figured the company would be toast after last year's subprime lending meltdown. True, the company may have upset the markets with a costly bailout that found it selling assets for pennies on the dollar. It was a common theme in 2007 to find former blue chips like lender Countrywide Financial (NYSE:CFC) and homebuilder Lennar (NYSE:LEN) turning to desperate bailouts or asset fire sales.

In retrospect, E*Trade's moves were a necessary way to restore credibility -- almost as important as restoring financial stability.

The sacrifice seems to be working. Defecting accounts have dried up in recent months, and now the company is repositioning itself, with new blood at the helm and an appealing marketing message.

E*Trade's new hire actually resulted from the Citadel infusion. Former JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM) exec Donald Layton was installed as chairman at E*Trade after Citadel's investment. He will now lead E*Trade into the future as CEO.

Layton's arrival won't be enough to make rivals like TDAMERITRADE (NASDAQ:AMTD) and Charles Schwab (NASDAQ:SCHW) lose any sleep, but the time for easily picking E*Trade's accounts dry is over.

We're back to a three-horse race when it comes to the growing prospects for discount brokerages. Let the next race begin.