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Schwab celebrates 40 years in business

By Jim Mackinnon
Beacon Journal business writer

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Financial services and investment firm powerhouse Charles Schwab & Co. brought its 40th anniversary celebration to Richfield.

A traveling, interactive exhibit that covers the history of its namesake founder and the firm, which now manages about $2.1 trillion in client assets, is on display at Schwab Retirement Plan Services office off Kinross Lakes Parkway.

Schwab, based in San Francisco, has greatly evolved and grown since its founding as a discount brokerage in 1973, but the core message of putting client’s interests first has stayed the same, said Steve Anderson, 56, executive vice president in charge of Schwab Retirement Plan Services.

“The key thing is the emphasis on the client,” Anderson said. “This is what permeates the whole firm.”

People who visit the exhibit are greeted by a life-size Charles Schwab on a large monitor. A motion detector triggers a short talk from Schwab, now chairman of the company he founded. The exhibit includes touch screens as well as artifacts that include a pair of glasses from Charles Schwab and his handwritten rules of investing. (The exhibit is not open to the public.)

Walt Bettinger, Schwab’s president and chief executive officer, got his start in Northeast Ohio. Bettinger created a retirement financial firm, Hampton Co., in Bath, that Schwab purchased in 1995, relocated to Richfield and turned into its Retirement Plan Services division.

The Richfield facility has grown from about 80 people to nearly 600 and manages more than $120 billion in workplace retirement funds for about 1.5 million participants, Anderson said. He grew up and lives in Medina and has been with Schwab about 14 years.

“Richfield is one of our major sites,” he said.

Retirement Plan Services has evolved over the years to provide more consulting and advice services for people whose workplace retirement plans are managed by Schwab, Anderson said. The information they have means they can build portfolios for individuals based on their age, income, savings rate and more, he said. Clients can interact with Schwab via the Internet and also by telephone, he said.

“Our time on the phone has increased,” he said. When people need to make an important decision on what to do within their retirement plan, they typically want to talk with someone on the telephone and not use a computer, he said.

While the interactive exhibit looks back 40 years, Anderson also said his business is looking ahead and responding to client needs. Schwab later this year expects to announce a first-in-the nation 401(k) industry plan using what are called exchange traded funds, or ETFs, Anderson said. “We’re developing that right here in Richfield,” he said.

The use of ETFs fits well with Schwab’s philosophy of offering low-cost, diversified investments coupled with advice, Anderson said.

The exhibit is staying at the Richfield facility through Friday.

Jim Mackinnon can be reached at 330-996-3544 or jmackinnon@thebeaconjournal.com.


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