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How Schwab's new 'owning it' advertisements position the firm to offer more advice -- and how RIAs factored into the brand rethink

CEO Walter Bettinger wants his company, long a kingpin in the discount brokerage realm, to become a 'challenger brand' again

Author Wayne Friedman August 6, 2013 at 2:32 AM
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Walter Bettinger: It's very difficult to take 'Talk to Chuck' and have that tie into, for example, our RIA business.

RIA Custodians

Elmer Rich III

Elmer Rich III

August 6, 2013 — 6:51 PM

This is clearly making a “hero” of the DIY investor and the isolated, older guy decision maker. Chuck standing alone looking down from an office looking on people. Was there no one who helped him succeed?

My understanding is that investments, like all other professional responsibilities, are most successful when the investor has a good team – not going it alone. wouldn’t people responding to this ad look at their advisers and say “Chuck said, “'Own it – so I’ll go it along.

Showing Chuck with a good team would help model optimal behavior for older guy investors. Showing customers and the members of the team – speaking for themselves — would build empathy.

As we age we need, MORE social and professional support – not less.

But, yes, the guy paying the bills being the focus of ads is the most common ad strategy. A “Flatter the client” strategy is always easiest to get approved. I used to work at an ad agency and had my own for 5 years.

Matt Bray

Matt Bray

August 7, 2013 — 8:37 PM

CS wouldn’t have had a chance to develop a robust retail business if it hadn’t been embraced by RIA’s as a preferred custodian in its early days. Those of us that were around then, operating an RIA and using them as a custodian, understand this fact. Thank you.



August 8, 2013 — 3:28 PM

Brooke, with all due respect, you sound quite defensive in your editorial about Charles Schwab’s new campaign. When he speaks of those who are “owning it” and those who aren’t, why do you seem to feel so alienated by this? I simply interpret the expression to mean there are those who take ownership of their lives by pulling themselves up by the boot straps, while there are those who look to and expect others to help shoulder that responsibility.

Regarding the article itself, I can’t help but sense I’m getting a glimpse of the author’s own political leanings when he takes the occasion to cite some “anonymous industry executive” (well, isn’t that convenient?) to take a potshot at Schwab’s so-called “conservative message” of ownership. Yet it’s funny how I never see anyone in the financial media question companies like Starbucks, Ben & Jerry’s, and Progressive Insurance for being unabashedly “too liberal” and alienating potentially tens of millions of consumers who don’t subscribe to these corporations’ political affiliations. One certainly doesn’t need to seek out some “anonymous” source to bring this double-standard to light!

Elmer Rich III

Elmer Rich III

August 8, 2013 — 7:17 PM

Is there a difference between a heavily regulated company handling people’s life savings and ice cream and coffee?

Elmer Rich III

Elmer Rich III

August 8, 2013 — 7:58 PM

Then there is this. Can adults “own” their childhood poverty? Are they responsible for it?

Here are some medical facts:
“Children of low socioeconomic status work harder to filter out irrelevant environmental information than those from a high-income background because of learned differences in what they pay attention to, according to new research published in the open access journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

Numerous studies in the past few years have begun to reveal how poverty affects brain development and function”

Brooke Southall

Brooke Southall

August 8, 2013 — 11:06 PM


Yes, I would call those comments defensive in nature, with a grain of salt thrown in.

And yes, we were not able to get anybody’s thoughts about Chuck relating to politics on the record, not at all ideal.

But since it came up enough times in conversation, we weren’t going to ignore it either. I presume you’d agree that it seems echo the conservative framing of humans — as consisting of useful people and people who feel entitled to feed off their strength. The word you use for entitled is “expect.”

Without making a big value judgement, I will say the message doesn’t make me feel entirely comfortable. That owner, non-owner seems like a very black and white parsing. As a business owner and self-directed investor I don’t consider myself the bleedingest of liberals.But language with such a conservative tilt coming from a known conservative makes me feel … uneasy.

Journalists should not infuse their writings with their political leanings but they shouldn’t strive either to be politically correct.

Business people, especially great ones like Chuck, are free to speak as they please. I just don’t think journalists following them should feel obligated not to mention how it comes across.



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