Charles Schwab & Co.s purchase last year of the upscale private banking company U.S. Trust Corp. was seen at the time as a recognition that Schwab customers needs were changing as the customers got richer with Schwabs help.
But not every high-net-worth customer wants the kind of discretionary management available at a private bank. So next month the San Francisco financial services giant will offer something different to those who have over $1 million to invest but want to retain some control over their portfolio.
In a pilot program, Schwab will rename three offices that already target self-directed wealthy investors as Private Client Offices and will offer those with $1 million to $5 million to invest a service thats a little more hands-on.
Under the guidance of a Schwab investment consultant, these wealthy investors will have access to managed separate accounts with 12 investment styles and a minimum investment of $100,000. The company will also make the accounts available to its affiliated investment advisers at about the same time.
Schwab relationship professionals will staff the three pilot offices in Atlanta, Houston, and Century City, Calif., near Beverly Hills. Andrew Salesky, a senior vice president and the head of the new private client initiative, said these employees will help customers who want some guidance but also want control over their assets.
Our investment consultants are going to operate as a kind of financial quarterback, Mr. Salesky said. However, the ultimate decision on the investment style lies with the customer, he added.
Since U.S. Trust targets customers with around $2 million of investable assets, there is some overlap with the Private Client Offices, Mr. Salesky said, but he prefers to think of them as complementary.
At U.S. Trust, customers are delegators who want discretionary management of their assets, along with certain credit and estate planning services, he said. The customers that Schwab will target through its Private Client Offices may also have some money in a discretionary portfolio, or with one of the affiliated advisers, but Schwab is hoping they will want to control a portion of their assets Mr. Salesky said.
The Schwab private client is likely someone who sees value in the Schwab name and most likely has been a Schwab customer for some time, Mr. Salesky said. The company is looking to compete with a number of different financial service firms with the service, but especially with full-commission brokers, he said. Through the various channels we offer to our clients, we are moving toward a full-service structure.
Jim Folwell, a consultant with Cerulli Associates in Boston, said Schwab would love to have a client base profile that looks like Merrill Lynch & Co. This is another step in the attempt by Schwab to move up market towards U.S. Trust.
There is still some separation between the broker and U.S. Trust, Mr. Folwell said.
Schwab is prepared to play both sides of the fence and risk alienating an adviser base still smarting from having to compete with U.S. Trust, he said.