Meeting the challenge of our new reality


April 10, 2020

By Rob Farmer, Managing Director, Communications

March, by any measure, was an extraordinary month. The current global crisis began unfolding well before then, but last month the gravity of the coronavirus pandemic moved into sharp relief for much of the world, and volatility in financial markets spiked. During the same time, a sharp increase in the urgency to respond to the pandemic also took shape. The situation continues to evolve rapidly, and as people everywhere adapt, companies are forced to accommodate a new reality for their businesses, and for their employees. That is certainly the case here at Schwab.

If clients are the lifeblood of Schwab’s business, our employees are our beating heart. And that’s why we have operated from the onset of this crisis with a “dual mandate” that takes into account the symbiotic importance of these two groups. Seeing the world through clients’ eyes is our long-time promise, and that has not changed even in the face of these unprecedented events. But we also know that without our employees – our “Schwabbies” – we simply cannot fulfill that promise.

Schwaabies working virtually

Schwabbies have demonstrated remarkable resilience and patience as we’ve collectively navigated this ongoing crisis...Today, virtually all Schwab employees can work from home if needed, and more than 90 percent of our employees are doing so.  

Schwabbies in a virtual meeting.

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The one-two punch of the coronavirus pandemic and the correlating market volatility have created massive disruptions for people and organizations around the globe. At Schwab, it’s been heartening to see so many employees step up to meet the new, daily challenges they face at work, while also taking the necessary steps to keep themselves and their families safe.

Schwabbies have demonstrated remarkable resilience and patience as we’ve collectively navigated this ongoing crisis. We’ve mobilized to enhance our client-facing and trading systems, where our clients need us most during volatile times, and quickly adjusted our remote work systems so the vast majority of our employees can work from home. Thanks to extraordinary efforts by individuals and teams throughout the firm, we were able to quickly ramp up our work-from-home capabilities, including enhancing the bandwidth capacity of Schwab’s network to enable more than 20,000 users to connect concurrently. We also enhanced policies to enable employees to work effectively from home, including additional technology allowances to support these efforts.

Today, virtually all Schwab employees can work from home if needed, and more than 90 percent of our employees are doing so. Because of the role our company plays in the economy and the need to maintain stable operations for our clients, some essential employees continue to work at Schwab facilities. We’re striving to keep the number of people working on site to a minimum, for now. For those on site, we’ve implemented enhanced protections, including increased cleaning cycles and social distancing policies in all locations.

One of the defining aspects of Schwab is our strong, service-oriented culture. As tough times can often do, this crisis has brought out the best of Schwab. Schwabbies from all across the country are pulling together and working tirelessly to serve our clients, as they navigate chaos and uncertainty in financial markets. We’ve seen countless heartwarming examples of Schwabbies adapting to their new at-home environment.

Finding myself thankful to work for an amazing company that’s become family and has pulled together as one to ensure coverage where needed, adjusting priorities, and for allowing so many to WFH in very short order.

Schwabbie Heather Renshaw

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The Charles Schwab Foundation has inspired us with its quick response to give to our communities when they need it most. As shared here previously, the Foundation is donating $1 million to support front-line responders and the resulting economic hardship caused by COVID-19. A big part of that is going to local grants, in communities where we have our primary employee sites. We’re also committing an additional $250,000 for a special 2:1 match for employee contributions to response efforts.

Importantly, the firm has been working to ease the burden of the crisis on employees, who’ve been working hard to fulfill our dual mandate. Through the Pandemic Steering Group, the firm has implemented a series of steps to help Schwabbies through this troubling time, including:

  • All non-officer employees were given a $1,000 payment to help with expenses that may arise from current events. 

  • We’re also temporarily providing additional ongoing pay to many frontline employees.

  • The firm announced that it is not planning to lay off any employees because of COVID-19 or the resulting market volatility and, in fact, has continued hiring through March.

  • We also expanded the Time for Giving program to include medical emergencies related to COVID-19 in the event employees wish to donate accrued sick and/or vacation days to colleagues who are sick.

As CEO Walt Bettinger said in a recent note to employees, “I know many of you are facing some really challenging situations—from balancing child care and home schooling while working from home, to safeguarding elderly relatives and friends, to just figuring out how to keep your homes stocked with groceries. It’s a lot, I know! I hope the efforts we’re taking can help ease at least some of challenges you face.”

Employee safety is always top of mind, so Schwab continues to take necessary steps to enforce social distancing for essential team members in our facilities. We closed our branches to public access and closed branches to clients and personnel where there’s a public-health need. We’ve also canceled all in-person events for now, and are moving to virtual forums where we can. Business travel both domestic and international has also been halted.

We’re all in uncharted territory. And the future – always difficult to predict – may seem more uncertain than ever. But Schwab employees have been working round-the-clock to be there for our clients, and be there for each other. And because of that, the firm remains confident in its ability to weather the current environment and continue to be there for the millions of individuals and families who count on Schwab. The people of Schwab are optimists by nature and by trade. And, based on the response to date, we believe strongly in our ability to get through this together and get back to our long-term focus on tomorrow.

Allen quote

"With the gym closed and some extra daylight, it’s been fun riding around town on my Schwab 20th anniversary gift.”

Schwabbie Rebecca Allen
Schwabbie Rebecca Allen