In the beginning, charles schwab
opened one of the world's first discount brokerages. now he's
preaching honesty, trust, and the virtues of a diversified
Want a happy read? A few light moments? Then take this as your
reader advisory: Charles Schwab takes nothing lightly. Passionate
is the best one-word description of this self-made billionaire, who
certainly isn't shy about revealing his concerns about markets and
society, which range from corruption on Wall Street to fears about
the Social Security system. Push the right button, and Chuck - he
is never called Charles - will open up with well-chosen words.
At No. 51 on Forbes' list of richest Americans (the
magazine pegs his wealth at $3.2 billion) and chairman of the
world's largest discount brokerage, Schwab knows he has a forum for
his arguments. When I visit his San Francisco office, he talks
slowly and deliberately, and pauses often as he articulates his
ideas. In these pauses, Schwab directs his blue eyes at me, often
through long silences, and I understand that he's taking my
measure, trying to determine whether I'm really interested in the
answers to my questions. While many top executives don't care
whether reporters are engaged by their ideas, Schwab does.
He's not all piercing stare, however. Chuck Schwab is famous for
his toothy million-dollar smile. He laughs, he jokes, and through
it all he comes across as a guy who very much cares about the world
and wants to do his part to make it better, not just for himself,
but for all of us.
My final words to Schwab: "You're not a financial services
executive. You're a stump preacher!" Before he answered, he
laughed, with a pleasure that comes from being recognized for who
you truly are.