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Rating:Schwab Conference Starts Out On Bullish Note Not Rated 3.0 Email Routing List Email & Route  Print Print
Tuesday, November 02, 1999

Schwab Conference Starts Out On Bullish Note

Reported by Jason Shank

Schwab Institutional's !MPACT 1999 conference, held in San Francisco's cavernous Moscone Center, kicked off on November 1, with appropriately Halloweenie blue lighting and billowing fog, to the strains of a full-throated opera. A ticker above the stage flashed messages like "What was volatile will become commonplace," "The 24-hour global market has arrived," and "Generation X is making more money than anyone thought possible."

Things soon calmed down, however, as Chuck Schwab, energetic as ever, opened the conference with a few words and passed the mike to the conference chairman, Schwab vice chairman and president of Schwab Institutional, John Coghlan.

But the real opening remarks were delivered by Dan Leemon, chief strategy officer for Schwab, the details of whose speech had been previously revealed to the Wall Street Journal, which ran an article titled "Schwab Throws First Punch At Its Rivals, in Web Slugfest," a curious title for a rivalry that has already thrown many jabs, uppercuts and haymakers.

Leemon's remarks, while concentrating on Merrill, were later explained by David Pottruck, Schwab's co-chief executive officer and president, to be applicable to all full-commission brokerages (FCBs).

"When we talk about Merrill Lynch, we should be clearer -- we're really using them as a proxy for all of the older FCBs," said Pottruck in a forum with Schwab management.

Whatever the intended target, Merrill received the lion's share of the attention in Leemon's presentation, with special attention paid to a Schwab study of FCBs that showed Merrill returning -5.9% for its stock picks -- Pru, MSDW, SSB, and Merrill all underperformed the S&P 500 for its large-cap funds and its stock picking. Merrill called the Schwab figures "factually challenged," in the WSJ article.

Leemon continued in the same vein, in a discussion of Merrill soon-launched online trading system. He sees Merrill as benefiting most from its new "Unlimited Advantage" program, not its investors, with the company receiving more than 80 basis points per account when averaged across all customers. Merrill currently gets about 65-70 basis points per account.

He concluded with the fact that the $29.95 account will have no broker access, perhaps a tacit admission that many new investors neither want or need a broker.

Quote of the day: George Will, in a breakfast address, when questioned about whether he thought the two-party system would continue to dominate American Politics:

"I just spent some time the other day with Jesse Ventura, so I certainly hope so." 

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