How Schwab Built a Start-Up Inside a 14,000 Person Company?


NewCo Shift Forum — Speaker Spotlight

Mid-2014 was a time of transformational change for Charles Schwab, the brokerage giant. The financial services industry was changing under their feet, and a batch of robo-advisor startups like Betterment and Wealthfront were starting to crop up. They set out to disrupt established firms by using technology to automate investment decisions, and provide a user experience that was as frictionlesss as ordering an Uber.

The writing was on the wall. According to Neesha Hathi, who at the time was COO of Performance Technologies, Schwab needed “a modern approach to financial planning and wealth management that mirrors what today’s consumers have come to expect in other aspects of their lives. How they invest should be no exception.”

Schwab had two options: simply buy one of their fintech competitors and take over their product, or, the harder route: build a robo-advisor in-house, completely from scratch. They chose the latter. It wasn’t exactly commonplace for Schwab, a 14,000 person company with over $2.6 trillion of assets under management, to build elegant software in a lean, iterative way. But Schwab’s team — which grew from 3 to 300 people — managed to move quickly. Instead of spending months planning, the team immediately starting building and testing prototypes, and learning every step of the way.

In mid-2015, they launched Schwab Intelligent Portfolios, an automated investment account aimed at wealth managers and advisors. It now has over $12.3 billion assets under management, quickly becoming one of the the largest robo advisors in the world. In the process, Schwab turned into a digital leader, more responsive to their stakeholders and better able to build, learn, and ship products. As Hathi said, building the Intelligent Portfolios worked as “a lever for reinvigorating our own development process, and how we build products and platforms.”

Their digital-savvy is starting to spread throughout the company: last month, they announced their second robo-advisor product, Schwab Intelligent Advisory, a hybrid advisor aimed at individual investors. It combines automated investing with high touch service from Schwab’s advisors. Hathi, who now manages digital initiatives on the retail side of the business, said, investors “live in the world of Amazon and Uber,” so it’s critical to have “a personalized relationship that’s not just local but also virtual, having access to their advisor and their information anywhere they want to, any time they want to.”

Schwab, a 14,000 person financial behemoth, has transformed into a digital leader and one of the largest robo-advisors in the world.

Hathi’s leadership on this latest offering has been been key to helping Schwab adapt to the rapidly changing world of financial services, and she sits at the intersection of investing and automation. That’s why we’re excited for Hathi to join us for a session at NewCo Shift Forum, NewCo’s new executive conference covering “Capitalism at a Crossroads.” She’ll be discussing how Schwab, an established financial services firm that’s been around for decades, swiftly transformed into a digital leader. Joining 400 of the best minds in business, technology, and government, Hathi will help us explore a new compact between business and society. We’re now accepting applications for delegates, and we’d love for you to learn more and apply.

Join us for the NewCo Shift Forum, where 400 of the best minds in business, technology, and government will come together for two days of focused, action-oriented dialog.

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