This is a transcript of unscripted speech, rather than written prose, and therefore should not be relied on for grammatical accuracy. This is not a verbatim transcript. Parts have been slightly modified to improve readability.
Schwab Advisor Services™
Managing Director, Advisor Services Business Development
CHRIS REEDY: Hello, I’m Chris Reedy, Managing Director of Business Development for Schwab Advisor Services. I’m joined today by Mike Williams, Managing Director, who leads our technology consulting team that works with advisors considering going independent. Welcome.
MIKE WILLIAMS: Thanks, Chris. Glad to be here.
CHRIS: So, Mike, how you’ve been at Schwab?
Managing Director, Technology Platform Sales
MIKE: Chris, I’ve been at Schwab for just over 24 years, you know, working on the consulting business, you know, helping advisors choose technologies from portfolio management, to client relationship management, and financial planning tools. So excited to have this opportunity to help advisors look at turning independent.
CHRIS: So, Mike, what do you like about your role?
MIKE: Chris what I like best about my role is the opportunity to work with firms that are looking to go independent. I mean, it’s an exciting time for those individuals, trying to decide should they start their own practice. It’s an exciting time, but a scary time. So having the opportunity to kind of be that coach in that important decision process in their life, and helping them think about all of the things they could do. And then I think the biggest win for me is actually seeing these firms be successful and knowing that I played a small part in that decision process.
CHRIS: Walk me through a little bit about how your team helps advisors.
MIKE: Okay. Well, our team helps advisors… I really look at it in three different ways. Our main focus is to get them comfortable with the tools and capabilities we have as a custodian, the technologies we bring to the table to do business with us. Then we also, you know, sort of play that coach role in trying to help them understand the tools and resources they will need day one. You know, the great thing about going independent is there are hundreds of firms out there that are catering to independent firms and the capabilities they will need. Again, that’s sort of a challenge there, trying to evaluate all these different tools. Again, that’s our team’s approach is to really help you narrow that down to a handful of solutions, and helping you really then pick the right solution for you firm. And then it’s understanding where you want to take your firm, and then some of the what are the nice-to-haves that we can later? How will those marry to those solutions we’re helping you choose right out of the gate?
CHRIS: What makes your team different than what’s out there from the competition?
MIKE: Well Schwab understands how important it is to make the right decision upfront. We want firms to make it through the transition period as smooth as possible, but we want them to stay focused on growing. Most of the firms we’re talking talk are in growth mode and looking to ‘How do I get to the next level?’ You know, our team is there to make sure they don’t miss a beat as they go through that transition period.
Having that dedicated resource allows someone to completely focus on that advisor’s specific needs, making sure they’re there any time, that they need to vet, a specific capability, or really understand the capabilities of the solutions they’re looking at, how those systems work together. Again, making sure that the advisor is comfortable with that decision process.
CHRIS: Advisors that are looking to go independent probably already have some sort of suite of technology solutions they’re using right now. What can they do differently with technology once they become an RIA?
MIKE: Well, a great thing is they have the flexibility to decide what’s right for them. A lot of the people we’re talking to that are coming out of the wirehouses or the IBD space, they have technology, but, in most cases, it’s chosen for them. Most cases, they’re… may even be paying for technology they’re not even using. You know, the sad thing is if they got something that’s not working for them, they’re kind of locked in and they can’t change. Once they’re an independent firm, they have the flexibility to decide what’s right for them. If something’s not working, they can pull the plug on it.
CHRIS: So 24 years with Schwab you’ve seen a lot of change in the technology space. What do you see the next changes be coming down the road?
MIKE: Yeah, Chis, I see more things moving to the cloud, big data, having access to service your clients in different ways. A perfect example would be around the automated investment space. New tools coming to the table to help advisors streamline the opening of account process, more self-service. When it comes to actually managing the assets, we’re seeing a lot of traction around our Institutional Intelligent Portfolios, where advisors are able to build model portfolios, and actually having those systems rebalance the account, having those accounts raise cash for clients automatically.
CHRIS: Why should advisors choose to work with Schwab Advisor Services?
MIKE: Why should advisors choose to work with Schwab Advisor Services? Three things come to mind. Really, just our experience in the industry. We really helped define this industry. When you think about 30 years ago, as this RIA space started to take off, Schwab was right there helping advisors think about how to set up firms. Next would be our technology. I’m the technology guy, so I believe we’ve got the best technology out there. Really, I think our approach to technology, allowing the advisor to decide what their platform is, us opening up our systems to allow some of the best-of-breed third-party technology systems to have access to the data for the advisor to run their business, service their clients.
And last but not least, probably the most important piece is the people. I mean, really we come to work every day, our main focus is taking care of our clients, advisors, helping our advisors wow their clients. At the end of the day taking care of the people that are most important to you, your clients is really what drives and makes people excited at Schwab to be… come to work every day.
CHRIS: Mike, thank you for joining us today and providing all your insights.
MIKE: Thank you, Chris. It’s a pleasure to be here today.