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Schwab launches 'university' for advisory personnel

The San Francisco-based custodian is taking a self-service approach to a crying need for training employees of RIA firms

Wednesday, June 16, 2010 – 5:24 AM by Brooke Southall
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Julie Sunwoo: Advisors tell us that maximizing productivity and efficiency to enable growth is one of their top business priorities

Schwab Advisor Services has launched Schwab Advisor University.

The San Francisco-based asset custodian reported today that it developed the free interactive online training program to help registered investment advisors improve operational productivity and performance.

The curriculum for the training program comprises 12 self-paced courses and reference materials, including a course designed for first-time users of Schwab Advisor Center tools. The online curriculum covers the four categories of Schwab tools – new accounts, account servicing, moving money, and trading and research. The course selection is expected to grow over time and is only available to Schwab custodial customers, according to the company.

The self-paced classes were designed specifically to train RIA operations and support staff to efficiently conduct business with Schwab — and do so with minimal managerial time invested. Each course takes about 30 to 60 minutes to complete.

Can’t beat the convenience

“The fact that it’s online allows you to work according to your own schedule, so you can’t beat the convenience,” said Mike Schmidt, senior vice president and chief compliance officer at the Milwaukee, Wisc., firm Diversified Management Inc. in a release. “I need to train new hires, and at the same time do my own work. Anything I can delegate to an online solution is really appealing to me.”

Employees don’t mind being delegated to a computer, according to Julie Sunwoo, vice president of business consulting for Schwab Advisor Services. Based on a pilot program, RIA managers and staff members “universally gave it good feedback.” She added: “It was a validation we were headed in the right direction.”

The program was developed in reaction to a recent Schwab research study that shows that 67% of advisors surveyed said it would be useful to receive training on how to best use Schwab’s technology tools.

“Advisors tell us that maximizing productivity and efficiency to enable growth is one of their top business priorities,” said Sunwoo in a release. “Schwab Advisor University is designed to provide a flexible and practical environment for staff to sharpen skills and improve performance in a range of operational areas so team members can spend more time serving clients and doing their part to help their firms grow.”

With encouragement from its own survey, TD Ameritrade also announced a new educational program today for advisory personnel.

Spending on professional development and training is up 30% over the last six months according to a recent survey of 500 RIAs released by TD AMERITRADE Institutional.

“As the business of providing advice continues to become more complex and competitive, advisors should consider investing in professional development to enhance their staffs’ knowledge and skill sets to maintain an industry-leading positioning,” said Mike Watson, director of practice management, TD AMERITRADE Institutional in a release.

Unlike Schwab, which is offering proprietary content, TD is creating a portal that will launch in the fall that directs advisors to third-party education.

Schwab Advisor University is designed to work with Schwab’s Technology Adoption Scorecard to identify areas for improving firm productivity, and then address them with specific training. The scorecard was launched in 2008 and has been used by more than 3,000 advisory firms to date. It enables firms to track and benchmark usage of various online Schwab applications.

The self-service model is what some managers of RIA firms say they are looking for.

Report card

“The training helps me tremendously as a manager. I don’t have to make time myself or take someone away from my team to sit with someone who needs training. It’s invaluable to me,” said Cynde Lee, director of operations and chief compliance officer at the San Francisco Bay Area advisory firm Sand Hill Advisors LLC in a release. “I like the interactivity and that I can get a report to let me know how employees are doing and whether they’ve completed the training.”

Specific Schwab Advisor University courses include: client account opening, online cashiering, transfer of assets, monitoring client transaction status, investment research, back office processing for fixed income trading and back office processing for equity and mutual fund web trading.

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