Schwab Offers Good Customer Service, Low Trading Fees
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 Charles Schwab -- 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 those needs."
One suchSchwab ( SCHW ) 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 brokerages.
He lauds the firm for good customer service, a network of offices, free ETF trades and the relative simplicity of its trading platform.
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 action."
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 traders.
Schwab's client assets rose 16% in 2012 to $1.95 trillion. The company has 8.8 million brokerage clients.