Since that time, the program has been deemed a success and is not a permanent offering, Schwab spokesman Lance Berg says. The original nine offices remain, while the rest of the firm's private-client consultants-there are a total of 160-are spread among Schwab's 400 branch offices, he says.

During the first year of the program, the nine pilot offices attracted about 1,000 clients and $1.5 billion in assets, Berg says. The firm feels the program does not intrude on the businesses of its advisor clients, he adds. Whether or not it intrudes, the $1.5 billion in assets pales against the $20 billion or so that advisors brought to Schwab Institutional.

"I think there has been some realization that the programs are targeted at different investors," he says. "Schwab private client really focuses on the validators who still want to push the button and remain in control of the overall portfolio."

Likewise, officials at Fidelity say their private access services program-designed for investors with more than $3 million in assets-do not overlap with the services provided by their independent advisor clients. They also describe it as a program for "validators."

"It's not a wealth management group," says Jay Lanigan, who was recently promoted to president of Fidelity Investments' RIA Group. "We're not offering them specialized products and services that focus around advice."

One advisor who is content with the private-client program at Schwab is Thomas Meyer, president of Meyer Capital in Marlton, N.J. He says he has received about four leads during the past month from Schwab's private-client offices-most of them separate account clients.

In addition to generating some business for his firm, Meyer also feels Schwab's private-client services serve a niche that he would rather not have to deal with. "This would be the $300,000 to $500,000 investor that just sits there and kicks the tires without even opening an account," he says. "They've been steered to the private-client program, which saves us a lot of time."

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