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12 Actions TD Ameritrade Advisors Should Take During Schwab Transition

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As Charles Schwab pushes forward on its plan to complete the conversion of TD Ameritrade onto Schwab’s platform over Labor Day weekend this year, there are several steps that advisors at TDA must take to “optimize” their businesses during this transition period, according to the consulting firm F2 Strategy.

F2 Strategy is in the middle of releasing an independent five-part Insight Series to support TD Ameritrade Institutional firms as they transition their technology to Schwab Advisor Services after Schwab completed its $22 billion acquisition of TD Ameritrade in October 2020, forming a brokerage firm with over $6 trillion in client assets.

The series began on March 2 with Part 1: Preparing Your Business for Change, which covered a variety of areas advisors need to attend to during the conversion and best practices to optimize their businesses during the transition.

The next installment, Part 2: Preparing for Operational Change, was posted on F2’s website on March 9, offering advice on preparing operationally for the change and providing a timeline and to-do list for firms undergoing the changes.

Part 3: Preparing Your Clients for Change, followed on March 16, and Part 4: Preparing Your Vendors for Change, followed on Wednesday. The final part is expected to be posted on F2’s site next week.

See the gallery for 12 actions that F2 said Schwab and TDA advisors should take amid the transition to one platform.

1. Clean house.

“Your conversion process is an AMAZING time to do some spring cleaning,” according to Doug Fritz, F2 CEO and co-founder, and Lisa Asher, F2 manager.

“Eliminate old, outdated processes that drag down efficiency or weigh on the client experience,” they said in the first part of the series. “Your goal during this conversion period should be to use your time wisely to come out of this conversion a better, more efficient and technology-adopting company.”

2. Figure out what you want to achieve and what must be done to achieve it.

“Have the courage to consider ditching the old tools that you’re used to in favor of the new, integrated ones,” according to Fritz and Asher. “There is a high likelihood that integration and ubiquity within the new custodian framework will outweigh specific tool functions you grew used to over the years.”

Specific areas they said should be addressed include workflow documentation and efficiency; new capabilities, like digital onboarding; data cleanup; and third-party integrations management.

3. Examine your holistic tech strategy.

Questions that Fritz and Asher said advisors should ask themselves include: “What does your client experience look like today and what could it look like tomorrow that would make it even better? … If you are considering a change to your technology, do so in a way that does not interfere with the conversion or add complexity where it may not be needed.”

Also ask if clients are using TDA’s AdvisorClient. “If so, why and how often?” they asked. Also: “Do clients have access to other client portals and if so, why and how often are they accessing those? Does this conversion give us an opportunity to consolidate the number of portals a client accesses and streamline their experience?

4. Manage the change.

“There are three areas of change management to address: internal processes, external client expectations and internal staff,” according to Fritz and Asher. “To manage change in each of these areas, firms should employ several tactics,” with the first one being “leadership centralization,” they said.

“To maintain maximum effectiveness for change management and progress quickly, centralize the process by appointing one team member or a small group of team members as the leader of this transition,” they suggested.

They added: “Top level accountability that can provide client and internal advisor perspective is a critical component. A chief operating officer or director of operations would be the ideal person for this leadership role.”

Then “focus on communication,” they said. “Establish a communications timeline that repeatedly reassures them that they will receive the same level of advice and services, they will see some improvements, and that some processes will be different (which is not bad).”

5. Avoid potential pitfalls.

“A transition of this magnitude is a lot to stay on top of, but mistakes can be costly,” Fritz and Asher said, noting “there are two major pitfalls to focus on.”

The first mistake would be “assuming your vendors are ready for the change,” they said. “’It is imperative to proactively confirm with the providers of your current tech stack that they are plugged into Schwab and to understand what they are doing to prepare for transition. If you find they are not ready or willing to handle the transition, it’s time to decide if they are the right vendor for you going forward.”

The second mistake would be under-communicating, they said, adding: “The risks of under communication will lead to headaches down the road. Remember that when you send out an email, not everyone will read it or read it at the same time. Repeat messages, put them in different formats, and consider multiple methods of communications.”

6. Follow an operations to-do list.

In the early second quarter this year, F2 manager Greg Elliott said in the second part of the series, advisors should:

  • Designate a Firm Security Administrator (FSA)
  • “Journey-map your operational processes,” documenting the “current state and highlight the different touches and pain points along your processes” ‍
  • Engage your current third-party technology integration providers
  • Explore ways to leverage application programming interfaces
  • review all TDA Veo One users; and
  • review and refine rep codes.

Then, in Q2:

  • Log into the Schwab Advisor Center, attend events and start training
  • Update client accounts information, preferences, authorizations and paperless settings
  • Address your firm’s single sign-on capabilities and cybersecurity policies; and
  • Ensure your third-party managers are available on Schwab.

In Q3, close to the transition, Elliott said, TDA advisors should:

  • Review client direct deposit and the ACH instructions catalog
  • Make a list of open orders to transfer
  • Review Back Office Alerts; and
  • Archive Veo One data files from the inception of your rep codes.

7. Take advantage of Schwab features not offered by TDA.

Although “many features are the same on both platforms,” Elliott said, “Schwab Alliance will bring a few added benefits to you and your clients. Schwab has more estate planning, trust services, banking and lending, alternative investments, and mutual funds options available.”

Therefore, this is a good time to “explore ways to take your business to the next level with their new product offers,” he said.

8. Create a checklist for each client persona.

“To effectively build a comprehensive communications plan, create a checklist for each client persona,” Asher said in the third part of the series.

“The checklist will be different for each persona and will include a mix of the following advisor and/or client actions,” she said:

  • Client document preservation
  • ACH/direct deposit instructions
  • Payment features such as checks and debit cards
  • 2024 tax preparation; and
  • Open orders.

On the tax front, she explained: “Clients will likely receive tax documents from both TDA and Schwab for 2023 for times representing pre- and post-conversion. Remind them to look for two documents in January 2024 before they send information to their accountants or file their taxes.”

9. Prepare clients for the conversion from AdvisorClient to Schwab Alliance.

“Rather than just mapping the AdvisorClient experience to Schwab Alliance, now is a great time to assess your overall client portal experience” and figure out if clients will “have to access multiple portals for different information,” Asher said. If so, it’s best to figure out if “there a better way to consolidate activities so clients have one portal,” she added.

10. Build a client engagement timeline.

With only a few months remaining until the conversion, now is the time to start the planning and preparation process, Asher said, suggesting TDA advisors create a timeline of client communications within the planning process.

“For example, 60 days prior to conversion (estimated beginning of July), Schwab will contact account holders directly to share disclosure and notify them of the conversion,” she said. “Prepare your clients for this notification in June to avoid having a deluge of concerned clients calling in if they receive this notification without warning.”

11. Ask your vendors some key questions.

“Make sure you ask your vendors and get clear answers,” Fritz and F2 director Scott Lamont said in the fourth part of the series.

Those questions include:

  • Is anything going to change from your perspective when I go through this transition?
  • How will the day-to-day processes change in how we work together?
  • Do you have a different integration that allows me to do something I couldn’t do before because I am on Schwab’s platform?
  • If there are changes how will my staff be trained on them?
  • Do I have the right support person (who do I call if something does go wrong during the conversion?)

12. Think beyond the conversion.

“While you are engaging with all of your vendors, take this opportunity to look beyond the parameters of the transition and ensure you have the right vendors in place to support your business where it is and where it is going,” they said.

“Take this opportunity to look at additional tools and vendors that could enhance your existing platform post conversion,” they added. “While you won’t want to change vendors unless absolutely necessary before the transition, this is an ideal time to plan for the future vendor changes you might decide you need to make after you convert to Schwab.”

Discussion questions they suggested raising include:

  • Who has my client data and how much of my data do they have?
  • How are you securing my data?
  • What cybersecurity certifications do you have and which are you pursuing?
  • What other services do you have?
  • Are there features that have become available due to moving to Schwab?
  • Can I negotiate this price?
  • Are there things I’m not using and paying for? Are there things I’m not using and paying for?


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