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WALT BETTINGER ON CNBC, 4/15/24

 

SARA EISEN:  Joining us now is Charles Schwab, CEO, Walt Bettinger. Welcome back. Good to see you. 

 

WALT BETTINGER:  Nice to see you, Sara. Thanks for having me on today. 

 

SARA:  Thank you for coming on to discuss it, because there are a lot of metrics to go through when it comes to your earnings, from new asset growth, to the cash sorting, and the net interest margins. Just give us a holistic picture of what you’re seeing and why investors are encouraged about it. 

 

WALT:  I think what investors are looking at is sequential progress, and not so much going back to one year ago, which was before a lot of the challenges that we faced in the early part of ‘23. So when you look sequentially, the numbers are extremely strong. Client engagement is very high. Net new assets trending back into our historic levels, with $45 billion in new money in March. So investors are focused on where we are today and where we’re going in the future, and I think they have a lot of reason to be optimistic, just as I do, 

 

SARA:  And where interest rates are going, too. That should help with the net interest margin, right? The fact that we’re pairing back expectations of rate cuts, 

 

WALT:  Yes. Actually higher for longer is good for us at Schwab. It will improve our revenue, and likely our earnings, as well as even our capital creation. It’s important to keep in mind that over a third of our balance sheet is invested in floating instruments, and so higher rates are good for Schwab, 

 

SARA:  Which has been, I know, a point that you’ve had to argue a lot over the last year, and we’ve talked about a lot on CNBC with you, Walt, because there’s also the cash sorting issue, and that was at the heart of the concerns last year. And you did see deposits go down this quarter, and so I do wonder how the rate picture is influencing all that. 

 

WALT:  Well, really, the idea of clients realigning their cash is no longer a key factor in our firm. That was a 2022 and early ‘23 story. And just as an illustration, in the last six months, on a $400 billion balance sheet, client movement was about $8 billion down. So $8 billion on 400 billion. It’s really no longer a story that is meaningful within our firm at this point.

 

CARL QUINTANILLA:  For the industry, Walt, is there a level of rates where… at least at the benchmark, where you would begin to worry about duration mismatch again, or have we somehow exited that window? 

 

WALT:  Yeah, I don’t know about for the industry overall, but for Schwab, I don’t think higher rates necessarily create an issue. Again, as rates possibly were to stay where they are for longer or even move up, it just creates more revenue for us, more earnings, and of course we can use that for organic capital. So we’re in a good spot. If rates moderate a little bit, that will be good for us. If rates stay higher for longer, that will also be good for us. 

 

The only time that we’re really challenged by rate movement is when they move up from near zero very, very quickly, of course, as they did, and that creates the client cash realigning. But at this point, we’re down pretty much to transactional cash only, and we’re in a very good spot. 

 

SARA:  New asset growth, which you mentioned at the top, which I think investors were hopeful to see return to the normal kind of growth rates, what’s driving it and where do you expect that to go? 

 

WALT:  Well, a big part of what was impacting us was the integration with Ameritrade. And understandably, when you add a couple billion dollars from a very successful firm that you acquired, you’re going to have some attrition because some of those clients considered Schwab and then decided to go to Ameritrade and now after the acquisition there at Schwab. But those numbers are largely working their way through the system, and I think you could see that in March. Forty-five billion dollars, that’s a pretty good month. That would be a pretty good year for a lot of firms in our business. Six percent organic growth rate on our asset base of a little over 9 trillion. So we’re, again, optimistic about trending back into our historic range, which is somewhere between 5- to 7% organic growth in terms of net new assets. 

 

SARA:  And now that you’ve really started to complete the integration of the two clients, are there more opportunities for growth, cross-selling, for instance, opportunities? 

 

WALT:  Well, we don’t really think of it as much as cross-selling as we do just exposing those new clients to all that Schwab has to offer, and that is also starting to kick in. Just as an example, we had record enrollments in the first quarter in our retail fee-based advisory solutions. Thirty percent of those came from legacy Ameritrade clients. So as those clients begin to be exposed to the broader array of solutions that we have at Schwab, they’re already taking us up on it at a level that we’re quite excited about. 

 

CARL:  Walt, I’d love to get your take on where we are right now regarding investor risk appetite. Goldman had some comments out today that said the flurry of initial public offerings we’ve gotten is reflective of better appetite, that we’re in the early stages of the reopening of the capital markets. Are there metrics that reflect some of that? 

 

WALT:  I think I would categorize our clients as being moderately optimistic. They are engaged, though, at a very high level, not just simply with the equity markets, but also with fixed income, as well as with the cash investments that they have. They’re, I would say, moderately optimistic about the equity markets. We do see a more bullish trend than we saw six months ago, but their engagement level is high overall. It’s just not purely in the equity markets. A lot of engagement continuing with fixed income, as well as with their cash investments. 

 

SARA:  Yeah, I mean, we expected some of that money to come out of the money market funds, but investors seem to continue to like cash. 

 

WALT:  They do. In the last six months, as I mentioned, where we saw very, very little decline in our balance sheet cash, we still saw purchased money funds grow about $80 billion. When you’ve got that opportunity for a largely risk-free return in excess of 5%, that’s quite attractive, particularly after so many years of zero or near zero returns on client cash. 

 

SARA:  And really quickly, what about retail participation? Are you seeing those levels grow? I’m sort of wondering in the wake of all the GameStop and everything, where the retail trader is right now, and if there’s a new crop of investors coming online? 

 

WALT:  Well, trading is accelerating. We’ve seen about a 17% move up in our daily average trades just since the fourth quarter. So traders are engaging, they’re looking for opportunities. We publish an index called the STAX Index, which provides good information on that on a regular basis. But we are seeing traders now coming back into the market in a manner much more significant than they were in 2023. 

 

SARA:  Very interesting. Good color. Thank you, Walt. Really appreciate the time today. 

 

WALT:  Thanks for the invitation again. 

 

SARA:  Yes, always. Walt Bettinger, the CEO of Schwab on results in the overall market, moderately optimistic. 

 

IMPORTANT DISCLOSURES:

 

Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

 

An investment in the Fund is not insured or guaranteed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or any other government agency. Although the Fund seeks to preserve the value of your investment at $1.00 per share, it is possible to lose money by investing in the Fund.

 

Video Transcript

Watch Walt Bettinger

WALT BETTINGER ON CNBC, 4/15/24

 

SARA EISEN:  Joining us now is Charles Schwab, CEO, Walt Bettinger. Welcome back. Good to see you. 

 

WALT BETTINGER:  Nice to see you, Sara. Thanks for having me on today. 

 

SARA:  Thank you for coming on to discuss it, because there are a lot of metrics to go through when it comes to your earnings, from new asset growth, to the cash sorting, and the net interest margins. Just give us a holistic picture of what you’re seeing and why investors are encouraged about it. 

 

WALT:  I think what investors are looking at is sequential progress, and not so much going back to one year ago, which was before a lot of the challenges that we faced in the early part of ‘23. So when you look sequentially, the numbers are extremely strong. Client engagement is very high. Net new assets trending back into our historic levels, with $45 billion in new money in March. So investors are focused on where we are today and where we’re going in the future, and I think they have a lot of reason to be optimistic, just as I do, 

 

SARA:  And where interest rates are going, too. That should help with the net interest margin, right? The fact that we’re pairing back expectations of rate cuts, 

 

WALT:  Yes. Actually higher for longer is good for us at Schwab. It will improve our revenue, and likely our earnings, as well as even our capital creation. It’s important to keep in mind that over a third of our balance sheet is invested in floating instruments, and so higher rates are good for Schwab, 

 

SARA:  Which has been, I know, a point that you’ve had to argue a lot over the last year, and we’ve talked about a lot on CNBC with you, Walt, because there’s also the cash sorting issue, and that was at the heart of the concerns last year. And you did see deposits go down this quarter, and so I do wonder how the rate picture is influencing all that. 

 

WALT:  Well, really, the idea of clients realigning their cash is no longer a key factor in our firm. That was a 2022 and early ‘23 story. And just as an illustration, in the last six months, on a $400 billion balance sheet, client movement was about $8 billion down. So $8 billion on 400 billion. It’s really no longer a story that is meaningful within our firm at this point.

 

CARL QUINTANILLA:  For the industry, Walt, is there a level of rates where… at least at the benchmark, where you would begin to worry about duration mismatch again, or have we somehow exited that window? 

 

WALT:  Yeah, I don’t know about for the industry overall, but for Schwab, I don’t think higher rates necessarily create an issue. Again, as rates possibly were to stay where they are for longer or even move up, it just creates more revenue for us, more earnings, and of course we can use that for organic capital. So we’re in a good spot. If rates moderate a little bit, that will be good for us. If rates stay higher for longer, that will also be good for us. 

 

The only time that we’re really challenged by rate movement is when they move up from near zero very, very quickly, of course, as they did, and that creates the client cash realigning. But at this point, we’re down pretty much to transactional cash only, and we’re in a very good spot. 

 

SARA:  New asset growth, which you mentioned at the top, which I think investors were hopeful to see return to the normal kind of growth rates, what’s driving it and where do you expect that to go? 

 

WALT:  Well, a big part of what was impacting us was the integration with Ameritrade. And understandably, when you add a couple billion dollars from a very successful firm that you acquired, you’re going to have some attrition because some of those clients considered Schwab and then decided to go to Ameritrade and now after the acquisition there at Schwab. But those numbers are largely working their way through the system, and I think you could see that in March. Forty-five billion dollars, that’s a pretty good month. That would be a pretty good year for a lot of firms in our business. Six percent organic growth rate on our asset base of a little over 9 trillion. So we’re, again, optimistic about trending back into our historic range, which is somewhere between 5- to 7% organic growth in terms of net new assets. 

 

SARA:  And now that you’ve really started to complete the integration of the two clients, are there more opportunities for growth, cross-selling, for instance, opportunities? 

 

WALT:  Well, we don’t really think of it as much as cross-selling as we do just exposing those new clients to all that Schwab has to offer, and that is also starting to kick in. Just as an example, we had record enrollments in the first quarter in our retail fee-based advisory solutions. Thirty percent of those came from legacy Ameritrade clients. So as those clients begin to be exposed to the broader array of solutions that we have at Schwab, they’re already taking us up on it at a level that we’re quite excited about. 

 

CARL:  Walt, I’d love to get your take on where we are right now regarding investor risk appetite. Goldman had some comments out today that said the flurry of initial public offerings we’ve gotten is reflective of better appetite, that we’re in the early stages of the reopening of the capital markets. Are there metrics that reflect some of that? 

 

WALT:  I think I would categorize our clients as being moderately optimistic. They are engaged, though, at a very high level, not just simply with the equity markets, but also with fixed income, as well as with the cash investments that they have. They’re, I would say, moderately optimistic about the equity markets. We do see a more bullish trend than we saw six months ago, but their engagement level is high overall. It’s just not purely in the equity markets. A lot of engagement continuing with fixed income, as well as with their cash investments. 

 

SARA:  Yeah, I mean, we expected some of that money to come out of the money market funds, but investors seem to continue to like cash. 

 

WALT:  They do. In the last six months, as I mentioned, where we saw very, very little decline in our balance sheet cash, we still saw purchased money funds grow about $80 billion. When you’ve got that opportunity for a largely risk-free return in excess of 5%, that’s quite attractive, particularly after so many years of zero or near zero returns on client cash. 

 

SARA:  And really quickly, what about retail participation? Are you seeing those levels grow? I’m sort of wondering in the wake of all the GameStop and everything, where the retail trader is right now, and if there’s a new crop of investors coming online? 

 

WALT:  Well, trading is accelerating. We’ve seen about a 17% move up in our daily average trades just since the fourth quarter. So traders are engaging, they’re looking for opportunities. We publish an index called the STAX Index, which provides good information on that on a regular basis. But we are seeing traders now coming back into the market in a manner much more significant than they were in 2023. 

 

SARA:  Very interesting. Good color. Thank you, Walt. Really appreciate the time today. 

 

WALT:  Thanks for the invitation again. 

 

SARA:  Yes, always. Walt Bettinger, the CEO of Schwab on results in the overall market, moderately optimistic. 

 

IMPORTANT DISCLOSURES:

 

Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

 

An investment in the Fund is not insured or guaranteed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or any other government agency. Although the Fund seeks to preserve the value of your investment at $1.00 per share, it is possible to lose money by investing in the Fund.

 

Schwab Co-Chairman and CEO Walt Bettinger on CNBC

Walt Bettinger discusses the company's Q1 2024 financial results and overall positioning for Schwab's continued success and growth on CNBC on April 15, 2024.

2024 Charles Schwab Challenge Champion’s Prize Revealed

The winner of this year’s Charles Schwab Challenge PGA TOUR event will drive off in a one-of-a-kind Champion’s Prize—a fully restored and modernized 1975 Schwab Stingray—which pays homage to the year that helped reshape Wall Street, when regulated stock trading commissions came to an end and Chuck Schwab opened the doors to investing wider for individuals by reducing commissions.

Schwab Stingray

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