With Scott D’Alessandro, Managing Director, Advisor Services Business Development; and Shawnette Gauer, Managing Director, Relationship Management
Schwab Advisor Services™
Managing Director, Advisor Services Business Development
SCOTT: Well, good morning. My name is Scott Delasandro. I’m the Managing Director for Business Development in the Eastern Division for Schwab Advisor Services. I’ve been working with financial advisors, helping them go independent for the last 23 years. And I’m joined with Shawnette Gauer, who is our Managing Director out of Southern California. Good morning.
SHAWNETTE: Good morning. Glad to be here.
SCOTT: Great. Shawnette, could you tell me a little about your role and what you do here at Schwab?
Managing Director, Relationship Management
SHAWNETTE: Absolutely. So my role and the role of my team is to help advisors as they become independent. We continue to support them on strategic and tactical issues with their business.
SCOTT: Great. And how long have you been at Schwab?
SHAWNETTE: I’ve been at Schwab for seven-and-a-half years, and prior to my time at Schwab, I was actually on the advisory side, as well.
SCOTT: Can you share with me the culture of the organization as you see it being here for seven-and-a-half years?
SHAWNETTE: Yeah, absolutely. One of the things I love about Schwab and the Advisor Services division is the client focus. And, for us, those clients are our advisor firms. Prior to my life at Schwab, I was an advisor and I custodied with Schwab, so I’ve seen that side of the business, as well, and I was always very impressed with Schwab, having had relationships with other custodians, as well. And I was wondering if what I saw on the outside as a client was really going to translate once I was on the inside as a Schwab person. And in the seven years that I’ve been here, I’ve been so impressed with how an organization of our size really has that built-in to our DNA in terms of everybody being onboard, solving issues that advisors have, how we can support them, and really being dedicated to their needs.
SCOTT: How do you define our service? What are the things we do, because I would argue and say we have the best service in this industry?
SHAWNETTE: I agree. I think the service that… that Schwab Advisor Services provides for independent advisors is world class. We collectively have a large organization dedicated to supporting the needs of advisors. So whether they’re opening up some sort of complex account or have a challenging client situation that needs some extra attention, needs some help solving for how we can serve that client best, our Service, our Complex Accounts teams, our Concierge team, Solutions team, all of us work together to deliver a good result for that advisor.
SCOTT: Some of the programs that your team gets engaged with, can you share some of those?
SHAWNETTE: Some of the solutions that we provide in terms of consulting, our role, as I mentioned earlier, is to really help firms think strategically and also tactically. And on the strategic side, we offer a number of resources to really help firms grow and think about their business in a way that’s meaningful to then. And so whether they’re thinking about strategic planning and developing a written strategic plan, whether they want to think about client experience and how they really drive a better client experience and deliver the right solutions to their clients, maybe they’re thinking about profitability, maybe they’re thinking about ‘How do I tell my story? How do I differentiate myself?’ Those are all areas that we can help with, that we can act as a thought partner to help them improve on those areas. We also provide a lot of resource and a lot of support around operational workflow, consultations, cybersecurity, and a number of those areas, as well.
SCOTT: Shawnette, I want to ask you, you talked about the culture of the organization, people willing to help advisors. How do you hire people, what do you look for in them to bring them on to the team, to fit into the culture?
SHAWNETTE: It is a great culture at Schwab and real focus on delivering great client service. One of the things I look for in hiring team members is their experience. On my team, we have all had experience on the advisor side, as an example. We also really set high standards in terms of what our advisors can expect for us. Some of the basics—delivering timely responses, communicating effectively, being responsive to their needs, and letting them know that we are there to support them as they need it. I think it’s important to also have people that take initiative, that are self-starters, that are willing to go above and beyond what is asked, that are happy to do that. That’s really what I look for, is that… that engrained DNA in somebody that wants to overachieve, to excel in their role, to exceed expectations, not only that I have for them as a part of the team, but that advisors have for them as we work with them and support them.
SCOTT: Shawnette, I hear from a lot of advisors that what to know how they’re going to do, how do they compare to other people. As you think about a wirehouse, they’re able to see themselves. Production, you know, how am I doing? When we come to the advisor world, they’re concerned about growth, profitability, ‘How much am I paying people?’ How can your team help them?
SHAWNETTE: That’s a great question. The way our team can help firms when they really want to understand how they’re doing relative to the industry and relative to their peers, the first thing that comes to mind is our annual Benchmarking Study. We have roughly 1,200 participants every year, the largest in the industry, where firms can input their own data, their own performance metrics, and get a deep and comprehensive report helping them understand their performance relative to the industry. We also have our annual Advisor Outlook Study, where we understand what advisors are thinking, what’s going on in the industry, and our role on the Relationship Management Team is to really take those results and help advisors understand not only their performance, but trends in the industry, where they are today and where they need to think about going in the future.
SCOTT: What’s different about Schwab versus our competitors?
SHAWNETTE: Yeah, it’s a great question and one that I get asked quite often. The thing that’s really different about Schwab and Schwab Advisor Services is the commitment that we have to the advisor industry. When you think about Schwab as a company, Schwab Advisor Services is nearly half the company, 1.5 trillion in assets. That’s substantial. So when we think about supporting advisors and all that we do, there’s a significant commitment, relative to some of our competitors where the advisor business is a much smaller slice of the overall company. We also have Schwab Bank, which is another differentiator for us in terms of really being able to provide some lending solutions to advisors and their clients. And, finally, safety and security of assets. We wake up every day thinking about how do we keep your trust, your clients’ trust. We don’t want to be a negative headline. So that safety and security and brand reputation is very important for us.
SCOTT: So, Shawnette, what advice to you have for advisors after they’ve gone through the conversion, after they’re set a year on, because there so much information coming at them, as you fast-forward?
SHAWNETTE: The advice that I would give to firms that have recently gone independent is to allow themselves time to adjust and to adapt. While as much as they think that they’re prepared, they’ve gone through the process, they’ve settled through the conversion, it is still an adjustment with the decisions that they now have the opportunity to make on behalf of their own business. I also encourage them to engage with their Schwab Relationship Manager, because we are here to support them to be a great thought partner with them as they get up and running.
SCOTT:What questions would you have if you were sitting on the other side of the fence for the advisors to ask?
SHAWNETTE: That’s a great question. I think the questions that advisors wished they had asked when they were thinking about becoming independent is understanding the support that Schwab provides in their business. Oftentimes, I think that they think independence means going it alone, and that’s not, necessarily, the case. We are here as their custodian to support them, to serve them, to help them think about their initiatives, and what they want to do. So part of our role on the relationship management side is really helping advisors understand all of the resources that Schwab has to offer, which are vast and various, and it can be a lot. So our role is to continue helping to simplify that, understand their needs, and then be able to deliver the solutions that are helpful to them.
SCOTT: So, Shawnette, why do you like your role?
SHAWNETTE: One of the reasons I love my role is I really love helping firms go from where they are today to where they want to get in the future, and that’s different for every firm. So my role is not to tell a firm where they should be doing, my role is to help them think about how to get there. And that’s… that’s the fun part, is watching that evolution and watching firms achieve the success that they want.
SCOTT: Well, thank you so much, Shawnette, for your… your time and your inspiration here today.