Charles Schwab (US)

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Charles Schwab is a leading US-based brokerage firm. Founder Chuck Schwab originally set up in the 1960s as an independent investment advisor and established a general retail brokerage firm in 1971. For a few years in the 1980s the business was owned by BankAmerica Corp, but it was bought out by Schwab and his management team in 1987, and has remained independent ever since. The company is best-known now for its online share trading services, the #1 in its sector ahead of rival E*Trade, but this serves primarily as a loss leader for advisory services. It continues to operate a chain of around 350 retail branches spread across the US offering brokerage as well as investment products, banking and other services. It also opened its doors to independent franchised financial advisors who bank their own clients' assets with Schwab in return for technology support and full access to research. In 2011 it acquired options specialist OptionsXpress, which continues to operate under its existing name. At the end of 2018, the group managed some 11.6m brokerage accounts with combined client assets of over $3.25 trillion, a figure more than $1 trillion higher than main wealth management rivals Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch. Indeed, currently Schwab is attracting investors' cash at record levels, averaging $624m of net new money every day in 2018, or a total over the year of $228bn, more than its three biggest US rivals combined. Revenues dipped sharply in the 2008 recession but have been steadily rising since then, hitting a new high in 2018 of $10.1bn, while net income soared by 49% to $3.5bn. The key strategy is to keep advisory fees as low as possible to attract new investors; instead the majority of income is generated by interest earned on managed cash, followed by advisory fees. Trading commission accounted for less than 10% of revenues. Walt Bettinger is CEO, but founder Charles Schwab remains chairman.

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Capsule checked 14th March 2019

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