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Morgan Stanley Sells Online Account Business to Bank of Montreal

Morgan Stanley is selling its self-directed online account business to Harrisdirect, a division of the Bank of Montreal Group of Cos., for $106 million.

The acquisition adds 150,000 accounts with $7 billion under management to Harrisdirect, bringing the firm's total accounts to 700,000 with $38 billion of assets under management, according to a spokesman for the company.

Morgan Stanley said it was divesting itself of the business to focus on personal, customized advice for clients through its network of nearly 14,000 financial advisers in more than 500 branch offices nationwide.

"Our clients tell us the customized advice and personal service they receive from their financial advisers helps them navigate the complexities of the market," said John Schaefer, president of Morgan Stanley Individual Investor Group.

Harrisdirect, meanwhile, said that besides making online resources available to its new shareholders from Morgan Stanley, it would offer personalized service to them via the phone, the Web and at more than 20 Harrisdirect branches nationwide. Bank of Montreal created Harrisdirect in February, after acquiring CSFBdirect, the online division of Credit Suisse First Boston.