Co-Chairman of the Board & Chief Executive Officer

Text: Walt Bettinger

50 Years of Consistency, Continuity, and Performance

Consistency through the Cycle

2023 was a tale of two cities for The Charles Schwab Corporation.

On the one hand, we continued our impressive organic growth, attracting over $300 billion in core net new client assets and adding almost 4 million new client accounts. We also successfully completed about 90% of the largest, most complex, and detailed acquisition integration in the history of the brokerage and investment services industry. Integration of the final 10% of accounts and assets will be completed in May 2024.

On the other hand, the intense, upward cycle of interest rates contributed to a very difficult year for our stockholders, as our stock price declined by about 17%. The near-record rise in short-term rates was the consequence of the Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserve taking aggressive steps to bring inflation under control, which negatively impacted financial services companies far and wide, Schwab included.

We will always strive to put our clients’ interests at the forefront of our decision making.

Despite the turmoil of 2023, many of our clients benefited from strong growth in their investment portfolios. Returns from the S&P 500® and NASDAQ® were substantial, albeit concentrated in a fairly modest number of equities. And fixed income investors were able to begin capturing meaningful yields on their bonds and cash holdings.

In our business, the short-term success of our clients and that of our stockholders are not always perfectly aligned with each other. For example, from 2020 through 2022, many of our clients’ investing results were challenged, while our stockholders were generally well rewarded. This reversed in 2023 as the cycle turned, with the stock market still rising as the Fed raised interest rates at its most aggressive pace in decades.

Given this cyclicality, consistency is paramount and a hallmark of our Through Clients’ Eyes strategy. Through economic ups and downs, we stay focused on the long-term goals of our firm, our stockholders, and our clients.

Environments come and go…but successful strategy is timeless. 

In the 16 years I have been CEO of your company, we have consistently focused on the long term, refusing to give in to the siren song of short-term fixes that all too frequently damage both clients and stockholders in the long run. And in this economic cycle, we have followed that same approach. 

The corporate financial results earned from serving investors will always be cyclical, impacted by environmental factors such as equity market performance and interest rates. But our approach to serving investors will never waver. We will always strive to put our clients’ interests at the forefront of our decision making. And we’ll always strive to serve them in the way we would want to be served.

Simply put, we have never been in a better position to grow and deliver powerful results in the coming years.

A Difficult Year for Schwab Stockholders

In my letter to fellow stockholders last year I stated, “We strive to be a safe port in the storm. A disciplined company. A company built on timeless principles like the Golden Rule. A company that takes its regulatory duties with the utmost seriousness. A company that carefully manages its balance sheet and risks because we know we are holding OPM—Other People’s Money. And a company built in the image of our founder: consistent, client focused, and highly disciplined.”

As I wrote those words, I didn’t realize how crucial they were and how timely they would be in a matter of weeks.

When the regional banking crisis arrived in March of 2023, we were prepared, with a balance sheet largely holding securities backed by the U.S. government and a relatively short-term companywide asset duration of less than three years. And we were gratified that in the days and weeks immediately following this crisis, clients responded by bringing tens of billions of new dollars to Schwab.

At the same time, two events were converging which impacted our revenue, our earnings, and our stock price.

First, guided by our Through Clients’ Eyes strategy, as interest rates rose at a near-record pace, we proactively contacted millions of our clients and encouraged them to consider moving their long-term investment cash out of our banks and into higher-yielding alternatives. This action was the right thing to do for clients. But as they moved cash out of our banks, it negatively impacted our revenue and earnings. Would we do the same thing again in similar circumstances? Absolutely. Sacrificing our own short-term financial results for the long-term client trust we’ve built is the ultimate proof point of our Through Clients’ Eyes strategy.

Second, even though the investment portfolio on our balance sheet consisted principally of U.S. government-backed securities with a relatively short duration, the 500-basis-point increase in interest rates resulted in meaningful unrealized losses in our securities portfolio. These unrealized losses drew the attention of the press and certain short sellers of our stock. I spoke publicly at the time about my confidence in our financial stability and continued strength. And time has proven that my confidence was justified.

Because of the soundness of our balance sheet management, we have been able to hold our securities, and today, those unrealized losses have declined substantially from the level they reached earlier in 2023. As time goes on, those unrealized losses will continue to dissipate as securities mature.

SCHW stock price at year-end for the past 20 years


Optimism for the Future

After a difficult year for our stockholders, one might question why I am so optimistic about the future. Simply put, we have never been in a better position to grow and deliver powerful results in the coming years. 

Five years ago, the combined Schwab and Ameritrade businesses served 23.2 million client accounts.1 Today, we serve 34.8 million client accounts. 

Five years ago, clients had entrusted us with $4.4 trillion of their investments.1 Today, clients have entrusted us with $8.5 trillion of their investments. 

Five years ago, our cost of serving clients was $1.91 per thousand dollars of clients assets.1 Today, our cost to serve clients is $1.60 per thousand dollars of client assets. 

Five years ago, we had the capacity to process 8 million trades per day. Today, we can process at least 20 million trades per day. 

These are facts. Not estimates. Not projections. Our clients’ trust in us is supported not simply by our outstanding client promoter scores, but also by third parties like J.D. Power, who ranked Schwab #1 in Investor Satisfaction among Full-Service Wealth Management Firms, and Investor’s Business Daily, who named Charles Schwab Bank the Most Trusted 2023 Financial Companies Bank. 

No doubt, we are working our way through a challenging time in the economic cycle. But I am confident that the strength of your company, the power of our Through Clients’ Eyes strategy, and the timelessness of operating under the Golden Rule will once again deliver for our stockholders in the coming years.

Client assets over the last 20 years

(In billions at year-end)


Note: Includes TD Ameritrade from October 6, 2020, forward.

Schwab’s Virtuous Cycle

The Virtuous Cycle recognizes and rewards our clients, employees, stockholders, and communities in a way that reinforces the benefits of continuing to work with Schwab over time. This type of long-term thinking defines the way we operate at Schwab. We strive to make decisions that will benefit all our constituencies for years to come.

Consistency & Stability

The Charles Schwab Corporation has been a model of consistency and stability for five decades. And our long-term stockholders have been rewarded.

We take a long-term view. We have an intense focus on the client. We know from many years of experience that we can grow revenues, profits, and our stock price by taking a consistent approach based on long-term thinking rooted in client needs.

These simple—but not simplistic—viewpoints guide us every day. We are committed to an approach that doesn’t change with the gyrations of the markets, interest rates, politics, or external pressures.

When you choose to invest in Schwab as a stockholder, invest with Schwab as a client, custody your clients’ assets with Schwab as an independent advisor, retain Schwab to serve your employees in a benefit plan, join Schwab as an employee, or welcome Schwab into your community, you know what you are getting. 

A company with a clear strategy. A company with a long-term perspective. A company and team of dedicated professionals with a commitment to doing what is right. Every day. Consistently.

We are committed to an approach that doesn’t change with the gyrations of the markets, interest rates, politics, or external pressures.


At the conclusion of my 2021 and 2022 letters, I offered a reminder that not every year would yield record corporate financial performance, as those years did. No one could reasonably commit to that. I did not know it, but the challenges of 2023 were right around the corner and justified that humility. 

But I did offer a commitment I would like to reinforce—a commitment that your company will consistently strive to:

  • Operate in a manner consistent with the Golden Rule.

  • See the world Through Clients’ Eyes.

  • Operate with integrity and transparency.

  • Share the benefits of success from our Virtuous Cycle with clients, employees, long-term stockholders, and the communities where we work and live.

  • Maintain a culture that gives every employee an opportunity to excel and treats everyone with respect and honor.

As always, we will continue to aim to be a firm you are proud to be associated with. 

Schwab’s best days are yet to come!

Thank you for your trust and confidence.

Walt signature

Walt Bettinger
March 1, 2024

A footnote: Each year I’ve tried to ensure that my Annual Report letter was clear and straightforward—written with minimal jargon, corporate speak, or trendy buzzwords. In requesting your feedback, the litmus test I have asked you to use was whether my letter read as if I were corresponding with a business partner who had been out of touch for the past year. Once again, I’d like to ask for your feedback by letting me know whether I’ve achieved this goal or have fallen short. And in every letter like this, I refer to Schwab as “your company” because for you, our stockholders, that’s what it is.


1. December 2018 figures shown on a combined basis for TD Ameritrade and Schwab using historical filings.