Patricia Cox was named chief operating officer of Schwab Institutional in February, assuming a post last held by the current CEO of SI, Charles Goldman. Cox, 39, began her career with Schwab in 2000, and comes to Schwab’s advisor division from its retail unit, Schwab Investor Services, where she had been in charge of client service and support since 2005. Cox spoke with Editorial Director Jamie Green by telephone on February 29.
You may be new to Schwab Institutional, but it seems like a big part of your background has prepared you for the position. Is there one area that you’ll focus on? What do you see as your main role in the new position? There are a couple different facets to the role, between service which seems to be a clear differentiator for us, to deliver on that promise to our clients and continue to raise the bar. From a product and technology perspective, obviously this is a group that is growing and has ever-changing needs, so I have to make sure that I listen to the advisors so we can make sure that we’re putting our focus on the right areas so that they can continue to grow and compete and succeed.
But everybody says, “We give great service.” How do you differentiate yourself? Is it in response time, in fixing problems after they have occurred?
There are a couple of things. First and foremost, I’m getting to know the folks in the service world, but having come from running service in our retail organization, several things stand out–the tenure and experience of the folks I’ve encountered here at SI has been impressive and will inform some of my answers to your questions. Having that relationship with the advisor to anticipate issues and be consultative in nature, and clearly if problems come up we have to recover from them quickly and gracefully, but the emphasis has to be on preventing them in the first place, and helping anticipate and alert advisors to things that are happening to their practices is important. I also think we’ve had a lot of focus on building and developing more tools and services to help advisors, and part of what we have to focus on is adoption, educating them on how to use things that are available to them but they may not be utilizing. We have to keep our eye on being out in front and being consultative, and educating along the way to drive adoption of what we’ve put out there.
In looking at your background, especially in retirement, you’ve worked with third-party people like TPAs, but also worked directly with education for end clients of retirement plans. Has that set you up to work with RIAs? One of the things that’s exciting for me with this new position is getting back into the business-to-business model–those third-party administrators are, as you said about RIAs, no shrinking violets either. Like advisors, they rely on Schwab to help them in the marketplace, like RIAs, and some of them are advisor clients, too, so there are some familiar faces out there for me, since some of them work on both sides of the house.
Working directly with employers to deliver benefits, and having that experience of helping retirement plan participants understand advice and the financial markets–helping make a difference for them is something that advisors do every day. I like to think my experience fits nicely with this job, too.
What are your best skills that will be put into action in your new position? At Schwab, no matter what position I’ve been in, whether being part of the turnaround in retail in client service, or in the TPA business, or in the bundled 401(k) business, I’ve had a good track of always listening to clients and taking that feedback and turning that into actionable items.