The Charles Schwab Corporation is a bank and brokerage firm, based in San Francisco, California. It was founded in 1971 by Charles R. Schwab. It is on the list of largest banks in the United States and is one of the largest brokerage firms in the United States. The company provides services for individuals and institutions that are investing online. The company offers an electronic trading platform for the purchase and sale of financial securities including common stocks, preferred stocks, futures contracts, exchange-traded funds, options, mutual funds, and fixed income investments. It also provides margin lending, and cash management services. The company also provides services through registered investment advisers.
Schwab operates in four main divisions: investing, wealth management, banking, and trading. As of December 31, 2016, the company had 10.155 million active client brokerage accounts, with $2.779 trillion in assets. The company operated 335 branches in 46 states, as well as a branch in each of Puerto Rico and London.
In 1963, Charles R. Schwab and two other partners launched Investment Indicator, an investment newsletter. At its height, the newsletter had 3,000 subscribers, each paying $84 a year to subscribe. In April 1971, the firm was incorporated in California as First Commander Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Commander Industries, Inc., for traditional brokerage services and to publish the Schwab investment newsletter. In November of that year, Mr. Schwab and four others purchased all the stock from Commander Industries, Inc., and in 1972, Mr. Schwab bought all the stock from what was once Commander Industries. In 1973, the company name changed to Charles Schwab & Co., Inc.
In 1975, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission allowed for negotiated commission rates and Schwab set up a discount brokerage. In September 1975, Schwab opened its first branch in Sacramento, CA, and started offering discount brokerage services. In 1977, Schwab began offering seminars to clients, and by 1978, Schwab had 45,000 client accounts total, doubling to 84,000 in 1979. In 1980, Schwab established the industry’s first 24-hour quotation service, and the total of client accounts grew to 147,000. In 1981, Schwab became a member of the NYSE, and the total of client accounts grew to 222,000. In 1982, Schwab became the first to offer 24/7 order entry and quote service, its first international office was opened in Hong Kong, and the number of client accounts totaled 374,000.
In 1983, Stephen McLin purchased the company for Bank of America for $55 million. In 1984, the company launched 140 no-load mutual funds. In 1987, management, including Charles R. Schwab, bought the company from Bank of America for $280 million.
In 1991, the company acquired Mayer & Scweitzer, a market making firm, allowing Schwab to execute its customers' orders without sending them to an exchange. In 1997, it was fined $200,000 for failing to arrange the best trades for its customers. The unit was renamed Schwab Capital Markets in 2000.
In 1993, the company opened an office in London.
In 1995, the company acquired The Hampton Company, founded by Walter W. Bettinger, who became CEO of Schwab in 2008.
In 2000, Schwab purchased U.S. Trust for $2.73 billion. In 2001, less than a year after the acquisition of U.S. Trust, the U.S. Trust subsidiary was fined $10 million in a bank secrecy law case. It was ordered to pay $5 million to the New York State Banking Department and $5 million to the Federal Reserve Board. On November 20, 2006, Schwab announced an agreement to sell U.S. Trust to Bank of America for $3.3 billion in cash. The deal closed in the second quarter of 2007.
In November 2003, Schwab announced the $345 million acquisition of SoundView Technology Group to add equity research capabilities.
David S. Pottruck, who had spent the majority of his 20 years at the brokerage as Charles R. Schwab's right-hand man, shared the CEO title with the company's founder from 1998 to 2003. In May 2003, Mr. Schwab stepped down, and gave Pottruck sole control as CEO. On July 24, 2004, the company's board fired Pottruck, replacing him with its founder and namesake. News of Pottruck's removal came as the firm had announced that overall profit had dropped 10%, to $113 million, for the second quarter, driven largely by a 26% decline in revenue from customer stock trading.
After coming back into control, Mr. Schwab conceded that the company had "lost touch with our heritage", and quickly refocused the business on providing financial advice to individual investors. He also rolled back Pottruck’s fee hikes. The company rebounded, and earnings began to turn around in 2005, as did the stock. The share price was up as high as 151% since Pottruck’s removal, ten times since the return of Charles Schwab. The company’s net transfer assets, or assets that come from other firms, quadrupled from 2004 to 2008.
Schwab YieldPlus Fund. This fund was named as one of the decades top ten fund disasters for the 2000s. “In written materials and in conversations with customers, some Schwab representatives omitted or provided incomplete or inaccurate material information relating to the fund's characteristics, risk and diversification, and continued to represent YieldPlus as a relatively low-risk alternative to money market funds and other cash alternative investments that had minimal fluctuations in net asset value (NAV). Between Sept. 1, 2006, and Feb. 29, 2008, Schwab sold over $13.75 billion in shares of YieldPlus to customers, which accounted for approximately 98 percent of the amount Schwab customers invested in ultra short-term bond funds. During this time period, Schwab's solicited sales of YieldPlus totaled approximately $3.36 billion, approximately 40 percent of which were to customers 65 years of age or older. Schwab collected approximately $17.5 million in fees from sales of the fund.” "From June 2007 through June 2008, the total return on Schwab’s YieldPlus fund YieldPlus held large amounts of securities backed by illiquid, long-term, private label mortgages. It also held long maturity corporate bonds and trust preferred securities. In doing so, Schwab’s fund violated concentration and illiquidity limits stated in its prospectus and had much more credit and liquidity risk than it disclosed in its SEC filings and marketing materials. YieldPlus’ long term securities including private label mortgage backed securities gave it a slight advantage over its peers prior to 2007. Unfortunately, the extra yield was an order of magnitude smaller than the losses that followed when credit and liquidity spreads widened and the value of its long term holdings dropped significantly in 2007 and 2008. was -31.7% when other ultra short bond funds had little or no losses. These large losses occurred because Schwab’s YieldPlus fund was not an ultra short bond fund as claimed by Schwab. It was instead an ultra long bond fund. YieldPlus’s heaviest reported losses occurred in early 2008, yet Schwab still appears to have understated these losses by significantly inflating the value of the fund’s holdings and therefore its NAV....The YieldPlus fund made large, risky investments in long maturity structured products, such as subprime Residential Mortgage Backed Securities (“RMBS”) that were inconsistent with the SEC’s definition of an ultra short bond fund. Schwab marketed the fund as a cash equivalent investment and as a safe alternative to money market funds with a higher yield and only slightly more risk. Such a claim would be incorrect for a typical, conventionally managed ultra short bond fund, but was especially false when made by Schwab on behalf of the YieldPlus fund. In its marketing materials, Schwab compared returns on the YieldPlus fund to returns on the Lehman Short U.S. Treasury 9-12 month index. The Treasury securities included in the Lehman index have no credit risk, are highly liquid and have short maturities. The holdings of the YieldPlus fund generally shared none of these attributes" YieldPlus had $1.1 billion of investor losses, including losses by the founder himself. Schwab closed the YieldPlus funds in 2011
In 2007, the company acquired The 401(k) Company.
On July 22, 2008, Walter W. Bettinger, the previous chief operating officer, was named chief executive, succeeding the company's namesake. Charles R. Schwab remained executive chairman of the company and said in a statement that he would "continue to serve as a very active chairman."
In 2011, the company acquired OptionsXpress. The company also acquired Compliance11, Inc., a provider of compliance software.
In 2012, the company acquired ThomasPartners, an asset management firm.
In 2004, Havas Worldwide (then called Euro RSCG) was chosen by Charles Schwab as its full-service advertising agency. In February 2013, Schwab hired Crispin Porter + Bogusky (CP+B) as its lead creative agency with Havas Worldwide remaining to create ads for ActiveTrader and optionsXpress. In March 2015, Adweek reported on marketing material created by CP+B for Schwab's Intelligent Portfolio service.
Starting in 2005, the company launched a series of television ads featuring the slogan "Talk to Chuck". The TV ads were produced by Havas Worldwide (then called Euro RSCG) and directed/animated by Bob Sabiston's Flat Black Films. "Talk to Chuck" ads appeared in print media, online, billboards, and branch offices. A blog post in The Wall Street Journal described the ads as effective because they included a single memorable phrase.
In 2013, the company launched an advertising campaign with the slogan "Own Your Tomorrow".
Schwab Charitable Fund is a donor advised fund which preserves the anonymity of donors by not disclosing individual donor names. Professionally-managed accounts are only available through independent investment advisors working with Schwab Advisor Services, a business segment of The Charles Schwab Corporation. It accepts contributions of real estate, private equity or other non-cash assets via a charitable intermediary, with proceeds of your donation transferred to a donor-advised account upon liquidation. This intermediary considers donations on a case-by-case basis, with a typical requirement that assets be valued at $250,000 or more.