Charles Schwab reported solid third-quarter earnings recently, meeting analysts’ expectations with a 49% jump in net income to $923 million, or $0.65 per share. Revenue grew 19% year over year to $2.58 billion.
But on a call to discuss the earnings, it was the firm’s talk of rolling out a “free” fund that got CEO Walt Bettinger a grilling from equity analysts.
According to the CEO, “We know that there’s at least one competitor with a ‘free or at least zero operating expense ratio fund’ out there. And we’ll continue to study it and watch carefully how clients feel about something that is categorized as free.”
Bettinger cautioned that the firm is “very careful” in looking at how clients feel about such a product.
Rival Fidelity made its ZERO Total Market Index Fund (FZROX) and ZERO International Index Fund (FZILX) available to retail investors for no fee and no minimum investment on Aug. 3.
Analysts with Credit Suisse said in note on Friday that Schwab “could replicate this strategy [from a competitor] in the short term.”