Charles Schwab & Co. announced Thursday that it is launching its biggest-ever national advertising campaign on behalf of advisors, featuring actual advisors in ads that will appear in publications and online intended to reach high-net-worth investors.
The ads, said CEO Walt Bettinger and Schwab Advisor Services head Bernie Clark in an exclusive interview with ThinkAdvisor, began Friday in publications like The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Barron’s, The Economist and on CNN, along with video, social media and even paid search channels.
In the interview, Bettinger said the timing of the open-ended campaign “is right for the marketplace,” citing the Department of Labor’s recent fiduciary rule and “the increasing awareness of consumers” of the importance of having advisors who act in the best interests of their clients. Bettinger also commented on the state of Schwab’s business and the Fed’s interest rate policy.
When asked what the dollar amount of the campaign would be, Clark said “lots,” and while declining to give a specific sum, he said the spend on the advisor ad campaign was Schwab’s biggest ever — and the biggest ever in the custody industry.
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The campaign was based on results of HNW consumer surveys, the two men said. “These are the words they gave back to us—fiduciary, trust, transparency,” Clark said. “They like this best-interest” approach that independent RIAs have, and that they “break the investment compromise” of traditional brokers who sell products that benefit the brokers and their firms and not necessarily their clients.
Clark said the ads and other steps were taken in response to consumer research that showed investors “don’t understand what an RIA is; they think it’s a firm, not a person.” To counteract that misunderstanding, “we did it with the faces of advisors” in those ads, and included words like “trust” and “fiduciary,” he said, intending to help differentiate independent advisors.
In the ad campaign, Schwab points to its “evolved” RIA Stands for You website, now called FindYourIndependentAdvisor.com, part of Schwab’s Independent Advisor Learning Center where investors can access more educational materials and find advisors in their geographic areas with a simple search-by-ZIP-code tool.
Speaking from Tucson, where Schwab hosted its annual Explore conference for 160 of its biggest RIA custody clients, Schwab also announced the ongoing success of a cybersecurity initiative for its advisors, including webcasts on the topic by Schwab’s Business Consulting Services team and a cybersecurity preparedness program. Clark said that “cyber is the biggest threat” to Schwab’s core business of protecting assets that advisors custody with Schwab Advisor Services. “As a firm,” he said, “we never want to embarrass our clients.”
As part of Schwab’s support to help the advisor work force “become more diverse in talent, ethnicity, gender and age,” Clark said Schwab supported the recently held debut of the Financial Planning Academy at Texas Tech University for high schoolers. In addition, Schwab also announced a matching-gift program to fund the Foundation for Financial Planning, pledging to match dollar for dollar all individual gifts to the Foundation of $5,000 and above, up to $575,000, and will use social media channels to encourage advisors to make such gifts.
On the advocacy front, Schwab reported that it joined with some of its advisors in participating in the Investment Adviser Association’s annual Lobbying Day in Washington, meeting with lawmakers on issues affecting advisors. In the interview, Clark positioned the Independent Advisor Learning Center and the new website as part of its advocacy efforts, while in a prepared statement he said part of advocacy was to help advisors “shape and navigate evolving trends and challenges … Attracting young talent to the industry is one more of the important ways in which we are actively working to champion independent advisor success over the long haul.”
What Does the Ad Campaign Mean for Advisors?