Charles Schwab's new retail website allows Schwab clients to rate different Schwab investment services. Will advisors follow suit?
"Expanding on its efforts to provide people with a more transparent and simplified investing experience," says a press release, the new Schwab.com website give investors access to research tools traditionally “locked” behind client log-ins.
Advisors would be wise to pay attention to Schwab's retail marketing effort to get ideas about what Schwab believes works in marketing to investors. Schwab has long emphasized transparency and Web-based tools in marketing to investors, and this latest effort reinforces its effort along those same lines.
While it is unlikely that most advisors would subject themselves anytime soon to public reviews by clients on their websites, the move by Schwab is bold, brave and admirable. It tells Schwab retail's prospects that Schwab is confident enough in its service level to enable such transparency. It also makes Schwab a tougher competitor to independent advisors.
Even if you are not logged in to Schwab's website, you can see all the reviews for a particular service. Since launching the site this morning at 8.m., nearly 300 clients reviewed the SchwabOne Brokerage Account. Each rating score the BrokerageOne Account on four characteristics: Customer Service, Investment Guidance, Fees, and Website Features, and this Schwab service so far has received a 4.3 overall rating. While plenty of clients gave Schwab a top rating of "5," the low ratings were, of course, fun to read.
"Schwab can't seem to get tax information to its clients," wrote reviewer "Still Waiting." "If you wish to do your taxes in February, do not do business with Schwab. They recently wrote a letter to clients saying they would not be able to get forms out in January and could not give a date when they would be available. Terrible service, and I feel bad for people who are waiting on them to get a tax refund."
CDCH was another unhappy client, saying: "There are other discount brokers that have much lower costs, better executions."
Schwab controls a "featured review" that appears on its home page, ensuring negative reviews don't get shown prominently. In addition, if a Schwab service receives overall poor ratings, it's likely that it will not be featured.
Still, Schwab can claim an impressive commitment to transparency, and the brokerage giant says in its press release that it is the first brokerage website to provide client reviews.
According to Schwab, more than 90% of those who repeatedly visit brokerage websites over a six month period do not ultimately open an account with any brokerage. The process is too opaque, Schwab says. Schwab's new site is an effort at "making it easier for people to evaluate and trust the information provided on brokerage websites."
“We listened to what consumers are asking for and have fundamentally redesigned the online experience in an effort to demystify investing. We believe this will give investors more confidence when it comes to deciding which brokerage to choose, hopefully leading more people to take action in pursuit of a more successful financial future.”
The press release cites these features of the new Schwab.com site: