Schwab Spends Time with its Rivals
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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Schwab Spends Time with its Rivals

Schwab [see profile] took 'coopetition' to a new level on Tuesday morning with a press conference it hosted in New York City. At the event, Schwab executives shared the stage with executives from other ETF providers. Schwab has its proprietary line of ETFs; at the same time, as a broker, it carries offerings from third party providers.

Schwab SVP Peter Crawford (l) looks on as Invesco PowerShares managing director Ben Fulton speaks.
The press briefing took place at the Time and Life Building in midtown Manhattan. (That building, incidentally, is also home to a Fidelity Investments branch. Fidelity was not represented at the Schwab event.)

More than 60 reporters and around 10 advisors attended the event. PR firm SunStar Strategic helped Schwab put together the press conference.

Peter Crawford, senior vice president of Charles Schwab & Co. led the Schwab contingent that flew from San Francisco to New York.

State Street Global Advisors senior managing director Jim Ross and iShares managing director Sue Thompson
Other panelists included Invesco PowerShares [see profile] managing director Ben Fulton, State Street Global Advisors [see profile] senior managing director Jim Ross, iShares [see profile] managing director Sue Thompson, Schwab Investment Advisor director Michael Iachini and ETF Trends publisher and Global Trends Investments Tom Lydon.

Morningstar director of ETF, CEF and alternative fund research Scott Burns moderated the panel. Fulton drew laughs from the crowd when he described himself as Burns' stunt double.

Crawford told journalists that Schwab's aim in hosting the event is to "demystify the world of ETFs."

So why did Schwab spend money to mount an event and let some of its rivals share the spotlight?

"The answer is pretty simple," he said. "While we're the new kid on the block when it comes to manufacturing ETFs, we are first and foremost a broker."

Topics addressed during the panel included mutual funds versus ETFs, active ETFs and the flash crash.

When talked turned to commission-free ETFs, Burns asked Crawford if he expects the trend of commission waivers to continue across the industry.

"Certainly, it will continue at Schwab," Crawford said. As for other firms, "we'll see," he said.

Sought by Burns for her opinion, Thompson quipped: "Seems like it's a race to the bottom."

Schwab in November last year kicked off the commission-free ETF trend when it came out with its proprietary ETFs. In February of this year, BlackRock's iShares signed a deal with Fidelity under which the latter will offer 25 iShares ETFs commission-free. Not to be outdone, Vanguard in May announced that brokerage clients can make commission-free transactions in the firm's proprietary ETF lineup.

"I cannot see that trend changing at this point," said SSgA's Ross.

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