Merill Edge is a brokerage which attempts to combine the friendliness of an IRA management tool with the hardcore customizability of a day trader’s console. In my opinion, the casual trader should take a look at what Merill Edge has to offer. The primary draw of Merill Edge’s trading platform is its customizability rather than its ease of use, boasting widely extensible and configurable options to tailor to any trader’s needs.
The software also has built-in tools for trading in extended hours and handling multiple trading accounts for a low monthly price—perfect for a hobbyist or career trader. With that being said, Merill Edge is probably a bit too complex for someone looking to use it for monthly management of retirement funds.
If you’re looking for a friendly platform that is responsive to your modest wishes, you’ll get better service elsewhere.
Logging in and placing an order on Merill Edge will be familiar to anyone who has used a trading platform. Users receive an overview of all of their current positions across all of their accounts, they can dive into the order placement screen.
The basic trading actions are well organized and easy to identify, and the platform defaults to providing a cornucopia of options and relevant data—definitely too overwhelming for the audience Merill Edge’s marketing team seems to think the product is for, but just right for someone who knows what they’re doing.
After the Starting Bell
Though customizability is its standby, Merill Edge comes pretty well equipped right out of the box. The first thing that you’ll notice is that Merill Edge’s trading deck looks pretty darn good, and won’t require any additional aesthetic mods or usability packages like others.
Trades and prices display logically, and unless you plan on interfacing with a different API, you should be all set. The guts of hooking up external APIs will vary depending on which APIs you’re interested in using.
The standard layout works on one monitor, but Merill Edge also supports multiple monitors, so don’t be afraid to rig a Wall St style wall-of-screens if you think it’ll be useful. Like other trading platforms, you can also network with others running the same software to screen share or copy trade templates, though it’s not necessary to get the full functionality out of the package.
The data harvesting, charting, and trade planning tools that Merill Edge offers are state of the art, and it’s very easy to grab the exact historical data you want—provided that you know how to request it– and have it charted next to your trade planning field.
Historical data queries are another instance where Merill Edge’s sophistication disrupts use by its intended audience. There’s no “basic mode” to complement the powerful but complex data-grabbing and trade planning tools, but luckily the historical data charting functionality is self-explanatory. Amateur value investors should be able to figure out the rest for a little time.
Merill Edge has a great news aggregation tool which makes its trade planning shine. The tool grabs press releases and news articles about the stock of your choice and dumps them to a feed which you can peruse via the date, impact score, or publication. Users can add stocks to the tool and have the related news articles queued up for whenever they decide to plan a trade.
Saving news feeds for later plays well with Merill Edge’s trade planning and historical data analysis suites, and I often found myself displaying them side-by-side-by-side to analyze a stock’s historical response to specific news items and press releases. The news aggregator is one area that everyone will be able to use.
Advantages and Disadvantages of the Merill Edge Platform
- Highly customizable trading and data surfaces
- Excellent news aggregator and stock investigator
- Powerful and simple charting
- Excellent templating of trades, data grabs, and interfaces
- Good integration with common external APIs
- Can network to other decks
- Can accommodate multiple monitors
- Looks good out of the box
- Good for decks which have multiple users of varying skill levels
- The potential for quick first-time setup
- Quick daily setup / catch up
- Overwhelming for new users of the platform
- Weak tutorial for long-term value investors
- Complicated management of simple accounts
- Complicated management of simple trades
- Complicated management of trade metadata
- Potential for extremely slow and difficult first-time setup depending on user competency
- Weak querying of historical trades executed within the platform
- May suffer from additional latency when placing orders while also gathering the news feed depending on hardware
Merill Edge is a mixed bag when it comes to value. The platform’s 0.45% annual fee minimum will be prohibitively high for long-term value investors or retirement investors, who the product seems to be marketed toward. Low-information or unskilled investors may be buoyed by Merill Edge’s automated asset mixing wizard, so it’s possible that the fees will be worth their while.
With that being said, the $6.95 monthly cost with no trade minimums is a steal for an amateur trader interested in doing some day trading with a platform that packs a punch. The $5,000 minimum balance probably won’t be a deterrent for the amateur trader demographic, so for them, Merill Edge offers a good value.
Are we Long or Short on Merill Edge?
Merill Edge is a powerful trading platform that takes some skill to operate. If you’re serious about micromanaging your retirement accounts and committing frequent trades based off of emergent market data, Merill Edge is a good choice. If you’re looking for a system to passively manage your retirement account with the occasional fiddling, you can probably find a better deal elsewhere.
For the amateur traders looking to push their trading game to the limit for an affordable price, Merill Edge is a great pick. After learning the platform, traders can execute trades and scope out the market just like the professionals do. Advanced amateurs can even experiment with attaching extensions and external APIs which will make Merill Edge a competitor to some of the best decks on the market.