Charles Schwab is a fee-based financial advisor firm that offers a number services, including investment management, financial planning and a robo-advisor. With many employed advisors and billions in assets under management (AUM), Schwab easily ranks among the largest financial services companies in the U.S. The firm also has a banking arm.
As a fee-based firm, certain advisors who work at Schwab can receive third-party compensation in addition to client-paid fees. This differs from a fee-only firm, which is one that only earns client fees.
Charles Schwab Background
Charles Schwab was founded in 1971. Today, the business is a wholly owned subsidiary of The Charles Schwab Corporation (CSC). CSC is essentially a holding company for the various subdivisions within the Schwab group of brands. The firm has branches across the U.S. in every state.
Many of Schwab’s financial advisory programs include the services of a certified financial planner (CFP). The team of advisors here also includes chartered financial analysts (CFAs, certified public accountants (CPAs) and more.
Charles Schwab Client Types and Minimum Account Sizes
Of Charles Schwab’s nearly hundreds of thousands of client accounts, most belong to either non-high-net-worth individuals or high-net-worth individuals. Businesses are another major client of Schwab, along with trusts and estates. Institutional clients include banks, investment companies, investment funds, retirement plans, charitable organizations, government entities and insurance companies.
Charles Schwab does not institute a singular minimum account size. Instead, the firm has varied requirements for different services. However, Schwab Private Client has no minimum.
Services Offered by Charles Schwab
Charles Schwab offers a plethora of advisory services. Take a look at the firm’s available services below:
- Schwab Private Client (SPC)
- Schwab Advisor Network
- Advice through roughly 200 independent advisory firms
- Investment management
- Customized financial planning
- Collaboration with other financial professionals (lawyer, accountant, etc.)
- Schwab Managed Portfolios (SMP)
- Professionally managed investment portfolios
- Regular investment monitoring
- Rebalances as needed
- Managed Account Select
- Meeting with a Schwab consultant to discuss your personal financial situation
- Portfolio oversight by a third-party asset manager after investment strategy selection
- Range of available investment strategies
- Evaluation and monitoring by Charles Schwab Investment Advisory (CSIA)
- ThomasPartners® Strategies
- Retirement planning through investment management
- Two equities and fixed-income/equity investment approaches
- Windhaven Investment Management
- Portfolio management through global diversification
- Portfolio comprised primarily of ETFs, but also stocks, bonds, real estate and hard assets
- Asset allocation planning and adjustments
- Wasmer Schroeder Strategies
- Portfolios of fixed-income securities
- Schwab Intelligent Portfolios
- Combination of automated investment management and human advisory services (through Premium package)
- Online planning tools
- Automatic rebalances as needed
Charles Schwab Investment Philosophy
Because Charles Schwab offers such an expansive array of services and has a wide network of advisors and partnered independent advisory firms, the company doesn’t necessarily abide by a singular investment philosophy. With that being said, Schwab as a whole emphasizes diversification. This principle dictates that clients’ assets should not only be invested across the market, but also throughout varying investment types. Generally, Schwab uses some combination of stocks, bonds, mutual funds and ETFs in client portfolios.
Fees Under Charles Schwab
Charles Schwab has a number of distinct fee schedules for its broad range of programs and services. We’ll provide an overview of the most common fees you’ll encounter at Schwab.
For the Schwab Private Client program, the firm charges an asset-based annual percentage rate (APR) as opposed to a traditional annual fee. To calculate this fee, the firm will multiply your account balance every day by 1/365 of your APR. These charges are billed in arrears.
The Schwab Managed Portfolios program carries an annual fee that’s also charged on a quarterly basis. Schwab automatically bills these fees to your account on the final day of each quarter. The firm charges different rates for each SMP portfolio type.
For the Managed Account Select program, Schwab charges negotiable, asset-based fees that are determined based on which investment strategy you use. The firm tends to charge higher rates for risker strategies. Fees are shown in annual rates, but again, Schwab charges clients on a quarterly basis.
Clients who use Schwab Intelligent Portfolios aren't charged a fee, but they will incur the costs associated with their ETF investments. These are called expense ratios, and they pay for the professional management of the funds. However, if you upgrade to Schwab Intelligent Portfolios Premium, you'll be charged a one-time planning fee of $300 and a $30 monthly advisory fee.
What to Watch Out For
Although not uncommon for a firm of its size, Charles Schwab has a number of disclosures listed in its SEC-filed Form ADV. These include:
- Felony charges against the firm or an advisory affiliate
- Violation of SEC or Commodity Futures Trading Commision (CFTC) regulations or statutes
- An order from the SEC or CFTC filed against the firm or an advisory affiliate in connection with an investment-related activity
- A cease and desist or money penalty issued by the SEC or CFTC
- Various disclosures related to regulatory agencies, including involvement in a violation of investment-related regulations and an order in connection with an investment-related activity
- Various disclosures related to self-regulatory organizations, including making false statements or omissions and involvement in a violation of its rules
- Various disclosures related to domestic or foreign courts, including being enjoined in connection with any investment-related activity within the last 10 years, violations of investment-related regulations and dismissal of an investment-related civil action pursuant to a settlement agreement
Opening an Account With Charles Schwab
If you want to work with Charles Schwab, it may be worthwhile to stop by one of its nearby offices. The firm offers a “Find a Branch” tool on its website that will allow you to view every Schwab location in the country or locate the office closest to you. Another option is to call the firm at (415) 667-9200 or open an online chat with a Schwab representative.
All information is accurate as of the writing of this article.
Tips to Improve Your Investment Game
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- One way to optimize portfolio performance is to align your risk tolerance and other investment considerations with your specific asset allocation. In other words, if you’re willing to accept high risk and volatility, you may include more stocks in your portfolio. On the other hand, a risk-averse investor would likely stay away from all but a few stocks and choose instead to focus on bonds and fixed-income securities. SmartAsset’s asset allocation calculator can help you determine an appropriate asset allocation for your portfolio depending on your risk tolerance.