Merrill Lynch HSBC Targets Affluent Investors in Britain

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Merrill Lynch HSBC, the global online banking joint venture aimed at "mass affluent" investors, yesterday began offering its full-service online banking and trading services in Great Britain.

PricewaterhouseCoopers defines the British "mass affluent" as those with investable assets of 50,000 pounds or more. The firm claimed that about 4.5 million Britons comprise this market segment.

At least 10,000 pounds ($14,253 U.S.) will be required to open a brokerage or bank account with Merrill Lynch HSBC, and trading will be free of commission until the end of October.

The service, begun last year in Australia and Canada, has signed up 20,000 and 60,000 clients, respectively, in those countries. The bank looks to offer the service in Germany, France and Hong Kong within 18 to 24 months.

Merrill Lynch and HSBC have invested $500 million each in the British venture.

The Merrill Lynch HSBC joint venture was formed in April 2000. HSBC Holdings plc is one of the world's largest banking and financial services organizations. HSBC Group's international network comprises 6,500 offices in 79 countries.

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