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New CEO aiming for E*TRADE brand relaunch by midyear

With one quarter behind him as CEO of E*TRADE Financial Corp., Karl Roessner described 2017 as a year of transformation for the online brokerage.

The company plans to update its trading platform and fully integrate the OptionsHouse business, and it is aiming for a "brand relaunch" around mid-year, Roessner said during a conference call to discuss fourth-quarter 2016 earnings.

"The integration is a unique moment in time to review our entire digital offering with a fresh perspective and a few new sets of eyes," the CEO said. The company shook up its management in 2016 following the announced acquisition of OptionsHouse, and the E*TRADE board indicated at the time that failing to jumpstart the company's growth could lead it to consider seeking out a buyer.

"[W]e don't have infinite patience," Chairman Rodger Lawson said at the time.

Roessner, previously E*TRADE's general counsel, said in his prepared remarks during the call that the company would become nimbler and leaner than in the past. "I cannot stress enough that under my watch, we will be steadfast in our expense discipline," he said.

Even so, the company is preparing to shift new resources into marketing in 2017, executives said, and marketing expenses have risen. "We're going to look at marketing to drive a significant amount of our customer and account acquisition and asset acquisition," Roessner noted.

The company crossed the $50 billion asset threshold in January, and assets stand at about $52 billion as of Jan. 26, CFO Michael Pizzi said. Given full compliance under the Comprehensive Capital and Analysis Review process, implementation costs are estimated at about $20 million and $15 million in running costs, he added, but that number could fall to $15 million upfront plus $10 million in ongoing costs if the $50 billion threshold were "meaningfully raised" and CCAR requirements were reduced for companies of E*TRADE's size.