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Admitting Imperfections, Schwab Works to Make Advisor Center More Palatable

Responding to advisor feedback in the wake of the TD Ameritrade transition, Schwab detailed a variety of updates to its custodial platform at IMPACT this week—and promised more on the way.

Charles Schwab is rolling out new functions and making a host of updates to its custodial platform following the massive integration of more than 7,000 registered investment advisory firms, $1.3 trillion in total assets and certain technology from its acquisition of TD Ameritrade.

On the second day of IMPACT, Schwab Advisor Services’ annual conference, held this year in Philadelphia, CEO Walt Bettinger and Head of Advisor Services Bernie Clark admitted during the opening session that the transition has been “imperfect,” but urged advisors to reach out to the leaders personally before publicly airing grievances or contemplating a move to a rival custodian. Not everything will be a quick fix, Clark said, but he asked for a chance to provide the disgruntled advisors with the reasons why. Former TD advisors attending the conference had mixed responses to the overture, with some continuing to grumble about the user experience on their new platform and a feeling that Schwab simply hasn’t been responsive to the new arrivals' complaints. 

Throughout the course of the event, however, the firm announced a variety of changes and updates to the Schwab Advisor Center platform—repeatedly noting that more are on the way and they are prioritizing advisor feedback.

“Your feedback has been extremely critical and extremely helpful for us as we improve on the website,” said Schwab Director of Digital Advisor Services Heath Batz. “It’s not lost on us that you have a choice of custodians, and we want to make sure that we're listening and evolving the platform to your needs, and we'll continue to do so.”

Schwab made TD’s trading platform thinkpipes available in the leadup to IMPACT and launched a fully digital securities-based lending service over the summer. A number of user experience upgrades highlighted this week are meant to make it easier to navigate the platform, including a customizable, modular dashboard and a redesigned money movement feature that now tracks upcoming transactions, is meant to be easier to search and sort, and automatically triggers digital authorization prompts through the custodian’s end-client portal, Schwab Alliance. A series of improvements have also been made to the profiles, balances and positions page.  

The custodian has taken a “best of both” approach to the integration of TD’s technology platform, Veo One, and Batz pointed out that features such as a consolidated view function and quick links have also been recently integrated.

Early this week, the company debuted a TD-developed model portfolio marketplace on Schwab Advisor Center, alongside TD rebalancer iRebal, offering 526 model portfolios from 52 providers—many of which are available without a strategy fee—and more are being added. Both iRebal and the Model Market Center are already being used by former TD advisors, while preexisting Schwab advisors will receive access in “the coming months.”

“You could use it as is or you can customize it, which is actually really good for a lot of our advisors because they feel that part of the value they bring to their clients is building great portfolios and it gives them a little bit more flexibility, but also scalability, in the construction,” said Schwab Advisor Services Managing Director of Client Experience Jalina Kerr.

“There’s so much acquisition happening that a lot of what we’re hearing from advisors is that they purchase or inherit a book of business that needs to be rebalanced or put into a portfolio that matches the needs of the clients or matches what the advisor is trying to do,” she said. “This is going to save them a significant amount of time.”

Batz said the platform is being updated at such a rapid pace that the demo shown at IMPACT on Thursday was already out of date, and new navigational changes will be rolled out over the next few weeks.

“You can expect us to make more changes as far as the navigation goes to better flow and better placement as far as the tabs and the functions,” he said.

Schwab remains focused on a “through the clients’ eyes” strategy, according to Betz.

“That’s why your feedback has been so critical for us as we make these improvements to the platform,” he told conference attendees, many of whom were TD advisors there for the first time.  “We absolutely look through your eyes as far as the change that we're making to make sure that we're making changes that are applicable to what you want. And if something isn’t working, that's where we need your feedback to tell us, and we'll make that adjustment.”

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