Morgan Stanley ($MS) will buy online broker E*Trade ($NASDSAQ:ETFC) in a $13 billion deal, as digitization continues to reshape how Wall Street institutions do business and do deals as they prepare for a future where banks and advisors are apps. 

This chart depicts E*Trade job postings, with the portion on the left representing the timeframe where negotiations with Morgan Stanley began. 

It's far from the first time a big broker's M&A was telegraphed a few months in advance through job posting data. Leading up to TD Ameritrade's $26 billion deal last year to sell to Charles Schwab, and Chuck slashed job postings leading up to the big deal. This time, on the other side of the transaction, E*Trade reduced its job postings 41% at the time negotiations were most likely. 

Further, it reduced roles like operations and customer service, to two-year lows - another likely signal deal talks were being considered since this is an area of E*Trade's business Morgan Stanley reps may be more likely to lead, as the company's integrated. 

Our second chart highlights why Morgan Stanley wanted to get into the online brokerage business - and shows that Robinhood ($PRIVATE:ROBINHOOD), and not E*Trade, has likely scaled off browsers better than any big bank's competition. 

Whether it's E*Trade, Betterment ($PRIVATE:BETTERMENT) or any of the other big-name savings and investment apps that debuted in the Apple ($AAPL) Store over recent years, Robinhood appears to take the cake for the most often-rated app, and that's a great sign of engagement overall. Robinhood has earned more than a million ratings in the Apple Store - and E*Trade is well off its pace, with just under 125,000.

What's more, is that Robinhood's rating in the Apple Store also surpasses that of all of the competitors we note here - E*Trade, Betterment, Schwab - which may be the best signal of its opportunity going forward. With the most ratings and the happiest users, a $7.6 billion valuation may mean Robinhood is a relative steal... at least, for now. 

About the Data:

Thinknum tracks companies using the information they post online - jobs, social and web traffic, product sales and app ratings - and creates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales. 

Further Reading: 

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