Charles Schwab & Co. announced Monday that it will begin offering a franchising option to independent advisors. The new program, called the Independent Branch Services program, has been mentioned recently in analyst calls by Schwab Institutional President Walt Bettinger, but is now officially launched, according to the company.

A Schwab spokesperson says the branch locations will offer the same products, pricing and service as the 300 company-managed branch locations, but with an element of independence. It also plans to serve the same mass affluent clients as Schwab’s company-managed branch locations.

How the two will differ, and avoid directly competing with each other, not to mention with Schwab's more than 5,000 independent RIAs, was unclear as of the time of this writing. (Look for further updates on AdvisorOne.)

“We’ve had many requests for years from our clients, ‘Why don’t you have an office near where I live?’” Charles Schwab, founder and chairman, said in a video message announcing the launch. “All these things around mobile phones, online, telephone, you name it, more and more people want to have face-to-face contact also. What better way than to have a branch run by an independent operator in various communities throughout the United States? I think it’s a major opportunity for Schwab, but more importantly, it’s a fantastic way for an investor to have that face-to-face contact. It will be a win-win for our clients, for Schwab and even more so for our independent operators.”

For advisors that join the program, Schwab says it will provide:

  • A turnkey, retail Schwab branch with the company’s latest technology.
  • An initial set of current Schwab clients from which to earn immediate revenue and referrals.
  • A revenue and expense sharing structure that offers additional support in the early years while building a business.
  • A local marketing match program.
  • Customized training and support.
  • Third party transferability, subject to Schwab approval.