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Schwab University is fast off the mark and its course selection is set to grow

RIA principals are pleased to be relieved of rote training tasks

Friday, April 22, 2011 – 5:42 AM by Brooke Southall
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Nick Georgis: Advisors get knocked like they’re not good business people. I don’t agree with that at all.

In a sign of advisors’ growing focus on the business side of their practices, Schwab Advisor University is off to a roaring start.

Participants from more than 2,500 RIA firms have enrolled in nearly 6,500 free courses since Schwab Advisor Services launched the online classes in June 2010.

The online classes are designed to train RIA operations and support staff to become more productive and efficient by using Schwab’s tools and resources. Schwab’s San Francisco-based custody unit serves about 6,000 RIA firms with about $600 billion of combined assets in custody. See: Schwab launches 'university’ for advisory personnel.

Nick Georgis, vice president, strategic business at Schwab Advisor Services, says that advisors’ quick adoption of the online courses speaks to how effective they are as business people.

“Advisors get knocked like they’re not good business people. I don’t agree with that at all. Advisors have successfully come through the worst market in history. Beyond market growth, our advisors are organically growing pretty significantly.”

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.

Six more courses

Schwab is in the process of adding six more courses late this summer on topics including product launches, cost basis legislation, and online tools like rebalancing and position journaling. Another course will aid in improving account opening by using technology that eliminates the need for re-keying data. See: Fidelity delivers a white paper and a warning to RIAs regarding new cost-basis rules

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.

With markets on the upswing and with assets at advisor practices growing, RIA practices are picking up their hiring and the training courses. See: RIAs are hiring like crazy in 2011 but sticker shock, picked-over talent pool may await laggards.

“It reduces anxiety about onboarding somebody new,” says Georgis.

Mike Schmidt, senior vice president and chief compliance officer at the Milwaukee, Wis.-based Diversified Management Inc. put it this way for an earlier article.

“The fact that it’s online allows you to work according to your own schedule, so you can’t beat the convenience. 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.”

Secondary benefit

There is also a secondary benefit that both Schwab and the RIA firms are discovering. Unlike classes taught personally, the online courses benefit advisors by delivering the exact same protocol every time..

“It becomes much simpler because answers are standardized,” Georgis says.

Cheryl Holland, president of Abacus Planning Group, Inc. in Columbia, S.C., says in a release that the University helped her firm bring new employees on .

“Experienced and new employees have an instant resource for questions that inevitably arise when there’s a gap between introduction of a resource and real life execution. This enables us to be more efficient, execute at a higher quality level and empower more employees for problem solving.”

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