Charles Schwab & Co. Inc. is looking for entrepreneurs who want to buy a piece of the Schwab name.
The company has created an owner-operated franchise network that allows financial professionals to own their own business but have the backing of the well-known custodian. The program also allows Schwab to get its name into areas where there has been no Schwab branch and make its services and products available to more people.
Since the first franchise opened in Nashua, N.H., in December 2011, 25 franchises have been opened across the country, with a 26th scheduled for late this year. The franchise offices are growing and exceeding asset gathering expectations, says Craig Taucher, senior vice president of independent branch services for Schwab.
The owner-operators come from a wide range of backgrounds, including independent firms and wirehouses. In order to own a franchise, a person has to have 10 years of experience as a financial service professional, including as a financial advisor. He or she must also have strong ties to the community and must have financial licenses and life/health and annuity insurance licenses. There must not be another Schwab office in the area and the target community must have a high number of affluent households.
The program works sort of like a McDonald’s, but, instead of selling Big Macs and special sauce, the franchisee is handing out financial advice and services. It is the latest way to spread the Schwab brand name and attract entrepreneurial financial professionals to Schwab, says Taucher. The franchisees can be registered investment advisors or other financial professionals.
The franchise program gives advisors a third way to associate themselves with Schwab. “Some financial professionals want to be employees, and we have a place for them,” says Taucher. “Others want to be totally independent, and we have a place for them through our advisor platform, where the advisors operate independently under their own names.
“But some advisors are entrepreneurs who want to operate their own business but want the support a company like Charles Schwab can provide,” he says.
Mark Hurley, co-founder and CEO of Fiduciary Network, a resource and consulting firm for independent wealth managers and a contributor to Financial Advisor, says the franchise idea may have come along at just the right time. The competition for new clients in the financial industry is increasing and becoming more expensive. Franchise owners have the advantage of operating under a well-known name at a time when it is important to have good marketing tools to attract new clients, he says.
“For the right person, getting one of these franchises is an incredible opportunity to make a lot of money without taking a tremendous amount of risk. The wealth management industry is on the verge of a seismic shift in what it costs to capture new clients, and this shift is going to make owning a Schwab branch very attractive,” Hurley says.
Advisors pay $25,000 to $50,000 for the franchise, plus they must have capital available to establish the office. They then pay a monthly fee for the Schwab services. The financial professionals who run the franchises are known as independent branch leaders. They can only own one franchise.