Investors naturally favor brokerages offering the
lowest-priced trades. But free investment help and easy-to-use
software are also important.
San Francisco-based brokerage
-- a favorite in the
Best Online Brokers
survey -- attributes its high marks to factors such as investing
workshops, 24/7 customer service and competitive trade pricing
with no hidden fees.
"We have a simple strategy that has guided us as a firm from
the beginning: We build our business through the eyes of our
clients. And that starts with understanding their situation,
needs and goals and, without fail, being on their side," said
Andy Gill, Schwab executive vice president and co-head of
investor services. "Then we develop products and services to meet
One suchSchwab (
) product is the StreetSmart Edge trading platform, with which
you can access the IBD Stock Checkup, eIBD and Leaderboard. It
was launched in 2011 to help active traders "quickly identify and
act on trading opportunities, and to actively manage risk in
their portfolios," Gill said.
Leland Hevner, president of the National Association of Online
Investors, calls Schwab's tools comparable to other online
He lauds the firm for good customer service, a network of
offices, free ETF trades and the relative simplicity of its
In particular, StreetSmart Edge is "going in the right
direction for active traders," he said.
Tools included in the application include news, live data,
research and chart-pattern recognition. It also lets customers
screen for securities using over 140 filtering criteria.
"I think they have kept things much simpler than some of the
others," Hevner said. "I like the clean nature of their
interface. It's not beeping all over the place."
Schwab boasts of servers via cloud technology. That gives
clients the "convenience and flexibility to access that trading
experience anytime, anywhere and from any computer -- Mac or PC,"
the San Francisco-based company said.
The technology gives customers access to StreetSmart Edge
without having to download it. "I think Schwab is at the
forefront of using cloud technology," Hevner said.
Schwab recently created Clients Speak, which features online
ratings and reviews. Schwab's site also offers free reports to
help clients assess their portfolio performance and risk.
"Given the market activity we've seen since 2008, investors
are increasingly engaged in the factors impacting their
portfolios and overall investment plan," Gill said. "So we have
seen a significant increase in clients' desire to educate
themselves, access research and then have the tools to take
Schwab has a range of free educational tools for learning
how to make money in stocks
. These include investment workshops.
It also offers mobile payment and account monitoring, 529
college savings plans and 401(k) plans.
Schwab bought optionsXpress in 2011 to let clients trade
options and futures. "We offer better depth of capability,
products and advice than discount and online firms, and we offer
more investing resources and better value than traditional
banks," Gill said.
The company says its clients range from those who want
constant advice to self-directed investors and active
Schwab's client assets rose 16% in 2012 to $1.95 trillion. The
company has 8.8 million brokerage clients.