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Schwab’s Latest Attempt to Appeal to Small Advisors? Virtual Consulting

In its latest effort to appeal to sub-$100 million advisors, Schwab has launched a Virtual Practice Management offering.

Schwab Advisor Services has long had a team of consultants who work with many of its registered investment advisory firms on strategic planning, growth strategies, referrals and cybersecurity. Now the firm is bringing those services downstream with the launch of its Virtual Practice Management offering, which consists of online, on-demand videos, exercises, whitepapers and live meetings with a business consultant, to help firms achieve their growth goals.

The firm said the initiative aligns with the recent pledge it made to the independent advisory community, which included a commitment to “in-depth practice management consulting and insights for every firm on our platform.”

“Being able to create programs like virtual practice management—where regardless of the size or if you have the time or the budget to travel or any of those factors—you can get expert help on key business issues,” said Lisa Salvi, vice president of business consulting and education, Schwab Advisor Services.

The launch comes as new Schwab executive Tom Bradley, head of the custodian’s business unit dedicated to the sub-$100 million RIA, tours the country reiterating the firm’s commitment to smaller advisors.

Advisors that custody with TD Ameritrade have mixed feelings about the firm’s impending acquisition by Schwab, according to a recent survey by But the firms in Bradley’s unit—largely younger and more tech-savvy advisors—are a foundation for Schwab’s future, he said. That unit could top 10,000 RIAs in a combined Schwab-TD Ameritrade Institutional custodian.

“These advisors are a major part of fueling growth, and fueling the future growth of the industry,” Bradley said recently in an interview with “We want to serve them well, not just because it’s a good thing to do, but because it’s a good business.”

The custodian started building out the practice management infrastructure a couple years ago to work with firms with under $100 million in assets under management and “help bring them the same level of expert guidance that we’ve seen work so well for some of the other firms we’ve been engaged with in a way that really works for them,” Salvi said.

Schwab’s first VPM program is aimed at helping advisors identify an ideal client type, what the firm calls “ideal client persona.”

“When I look at things that make the biggest difference within an advisory firm, really knowing who you’re designing your business to serve—their demographic information, their psychographic information, what they value, how they want to be communicated with,” Salvi said. “When you have a crystal clear picture of that individual, it’s one of the most transformative things for a business in terms of being able to set the right goals; it informs your marketing strategy; it informs the way you might do something like a client meeting, for example.”

That will feed into the next program, developing a value proposition, or how advisors talk about what they do in terms that would resonate with their ideal client.

Schwab’s 2018 RIA Benchmarking Study found firms that documented their ideal client persona and value proposition brought in 26% more clients and 41% more new assets than firms that don’t document these things.

Salvi said she felt compelled to bring more practice management tools to smaller advisors after hearing from one advisor in that camp a couple years ago.

“A couple years ago I was at an event and I was talking to an advisor who was about $50 million in assets under management, and we were talking about cybersecurity,” she said. “They were like, ‘This is so hard for me to do. My firm is just me. I’m staying up working until 8:30 every night. The tools Schwab provided are wonderful, but I need more help.’ And so that really stuck with me.”

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