A simple—but never simplistic—strategy for growth

July 2, 2024 Walter W. Bettinger II
Schwab Co-Chairman and CEO Walt Bettinger reflects on the company's achievements over the years and comments on the strategy for continued growth.

One of the more important responsibilities in my role is communicating our company’s strategy for success to our stockholders—who I call our owners—as well as to the analysts who follow our company and report on the value of investing in Schwab. I say responsibility, but really, it’s a privilege and a pleasure to speak with these audiences, because the story of Schwab’s success is straightforward and simple, though never simplistic. 

I recently had the opportunity to tell this story at our 2024 Institutional Investor Day. In doing so, I recalled the first time that I addressed an audience of owners and analysts as CEO just over 15 years ago. At that time, we had just over $1 trillion in client assets, which was considered a remarkable milestone—but also an ominous one in some observers’ minds. That was evidenced by the most common question I received back then: “Now that you’ve crossed $1 trillion in client assets, how are you going to continue to grow organically, especially at the rate you’ve been growing?” 

My answer then is the same answer I give to that question today, though I am perhaps delivering it with even more confidence than I did 15 years ago—thanks to what our company and our tens of thousands of Schwab professionals have been able to achieve over those years. For example:

  • At the end of 2008, we had just over $1 trillion in client assets. Today, we have $9 trillion. Lest you think that’s all market driven, just in the last 10 years, clients have entrusted us with almost $3 trillion in net new assets. 
  • In 2008, we had just under 8.5 million banking and brokerage accounts, today we have 35 million accounts
  • And just five years ago, before we undertook the acquisition of Ameritrade, we had the capacity to process eight million trades per day. Today, we can do at least 20 million trades. 

Achieving that kind of growth is never easy, but as I explain whenever I’m asked how it’s possible, my answer is simple. We operate our company based on the idea of The Golden Rule, treating our clients and each other as we would want to be treated. We call the strategy Through Clients’ Eyes (and capitalize it for a reason!), which means we make decisions through their eyes, and with their best interests in mind. And we do so with a commitment to time-tested Guiding Principles that are key to everything we do, whether it’s serving clients, working with each other, or operating in our communities.

Of course, there are a lot of easy ways to make money in the short run—I believe that and have seen it—but I also firmly believe that the only way to really be successful over time is to be aligned with your clients. Similarly, there are some companies in our industry who achieve success to a certain point by focusing really well on one thing. For example, disruptive pricing but with limited service. Or unique service that also comes with very high fees. But when you truly operate Through Clients’ Eyes, you see that enduring, long-term success comes from refusing to ask your clients for any trade-offs. So we say “no” to the idea of charging higher fees for great service and convenience, and we refuse to limit service in exchange for great value. No trade-offs—it’s the ultimate expression of operating Through Clients Eyes, and our 50-plus years of experience building this company have demonstrated it is the only way to grow at scale as Schwab has. 

We know from five decades of experience that we can grow revenues, profits, and our stock price—as well as expand opportunities and financial security for our employees and their families—by taking a consistent approach firmly rooted in clients’ needs. But it requires discipline and a long-term view. Results will always ebb and flow as conditions outside of our control change. What won’t change is how clients respond when they come to trust that you are on their side, serving their interests, regardless of what the world throws at you. They will respond by entrusting you with more of their business and refer others to you. And that’s why my answer to the question I was asked so frequently 15-plus years ago remains the same today: I’m confident we’ll continue to grow because we see the world Through Clients’ Eyes.