Expanding Merril Lynch around the globe

Merrill Lynch expanded its investment banking services around the globe during the 1960s and 1970s.

Following World War II, advances in technology, transportation and communication revolutionized the way people lived and worked around the globe. These advances also enabled economic expansion on a scale never seen before. Recognizing this potential, Merrill Lynch began to expand in the 1960s and 1970s to meet the financial needs of people around the globe.

The innovations in communication technology gave Merrill Lynch the ability to provide clients in foreign countries quick orders of stock trades listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). This level of access for international clients was a first among securities firms.

The technological advancements that enabled the firm’s international expansion was only the first step. Merrill Lynch also had to develop strong relationships with the governing bodies in these countries in order to start serving local customers. When an office opened in Tokyo in 1964, for example, the firm’s officers worked for years before and after to establish trust with the Japanese government to eventually become the first foreign securities firm to gain total access to the Japanese market in 1972.

In 1960, Merrill Lynch opened its first office in Hong Kong, a vibrant center of trade and commerce for the Asia and Pacific regions that attracted foreign investment from around the world.

It was the first securities firm in that region to offer direct Telex access to customers to place trade orders for stocks on the NYSE. The office operated during hours that coincided with New York trading hours, enabling its customers to conduct business while the market was open. The firm’s business grew with Hong Kong and the region’s rising economy to eventually become the Asian headquarters for the firm. Throughout the Asia and Pacific regions, Merrill Lynch continued to open new offices over the next two decades including offices in Australia, India, Indonesia and South Korea.

When the economies of postwar Europe stabilized and industry again flourished, Europe and Great Britain were key to the success of the firm’s international expansion plans. Merrill Lynch opened its first office in Europe in 1952 in Switzerland. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, the firm opened offices in Germany, Belgium, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. At first, the core client base for these firms was American expatriates and military service members who lived and worked throughout Europe. Merrill Lynch catered to their financial needs by providing account executives to open new accounts, provide financial advice and place trade orders for stocks on the NYSE.

When the London office opened in 1960, it operated under an associated license on the London Stock Exchange (LSE). Strict government regulations associated with the LSE prevented the office from advertising. After acquiring a principal license, however, Merrill Lynch operated more freely and began calling on potential customers, advertising its services and placing a sign outside its office—all unusual practices for more established British-based securities firms at the time.

By the end of the 1970s, Merrill Lynch operated in 23 countries worldwide.

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