American Way When you started this company almost 30 years ago, did you think you would become Charles Schwab the financial icon?
Charles Schwab Of course not. In any start-up, which is what we were in 1973, we were just trying to do all the things a little company does to survive. You work as hard as you can and try to get customers. You serve those customers,and you try to have profitability so you can grow. We are lucky because we continue to grow and people like the service we offer. All the way through to now, we've held onto our values, our ethics, our ways of thinking about customers, and about serving them with the highest level of integrity. It's a simple formula, but it seems to have worked.
American Way From the start, you positioned Charles Schwab as different from its competitors, with fewer conflicts of interest because your company doesn't conduct investment banking [so there's no pressure to hype companies that also have a banking relationship with the brokerage] and your brokers don't call customers with "hot tips." Have things changed on Wall Street in the past 30 years?
Schwab When you look at the underpinnings of Wall Street, even today there are a lot of inappropriate things in terms of serving customers. I think what happened in 2000 - the unbelievable amount of money going into Wall Street - created unfettered competition, and these deals were so valuable to the investment bankers, the brokerages would write articles [analyst reports] about how great such and such a company is, even though they knew it was junk. All integrity went out the window.
American Way You're talking about cases where Wall Street analysts issued glowing reports about a company, and on the same day in private e-mail disparaged these companies as garbage.
SchwabThat's not defensible. It's com-pletely unethical. But everybody didn't do it. There were a few bad actors who were really bad.