Me and My Buddy Charles Schwab


Several times a week, I receive mail from a guy I've never met. Probably never will meet. Yet he still feels compelled to correspond with me, sending all kinds of letters and forms and prospectuses to demonstrate just how much he cares. The name of my one-way pen pal is Charles Schwab. And even though I don't know him personally, I've entrusted a significant chunk of my retirement savings to him.

That's because, even though I have no idea what the fellow looks like, sounds like, or whether he even exists, I believe that the company bearing his name is worth trusting.

The primary factor behind my decision was the fact that a previous employer hired Schwab to administer its 401K plan. Beyond conducting a bit of online research to confirm the choice, I relied on the implied endorsement of Charles from the company that formerly paid my salary...with a slight assist from an enthusiastic Schwab representative who called to ask for my business.

I could’ve just as easily chosen to do business with Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch or Goldman Sachs. Or to stow my nest egg securely under my mattress.

But I chose Chuck instead.

Depending on how his enterprise treats my money and me, I may come to believe he is completely trustworthy, wholly irresponsible, or somewhere in between.

And, depending on how strongly I feel about those convictions, I may choose to share them with family, friends and anyone within earshot of my tweets.

That puts a lot of pressure on Charles. I do hope his shoulders are broad.

In the world of professional service firms, of course, it’s fairly common for businesses to bear the names of their founders, partners or family dynasties.

These handles come to represent the essence of a company, despite the fact that its mission may have evolved into an entity that bears little resemblance to its original venture.

No matter. The name still speaks volumes.

Some of these companies spend boatloads of money to assess, reinforce or redirect what those brands represent to clients and the general public. They may choose to emphasize the longstanding trustworthiness of the brand, or seek to freshen it up for a new generation.

While these enterprises may encompass hundreds of locations and thousands of professionals who bust their tails to earn the satisfaction of their clients, everything reflects on the man (or woman) whose name is on the door.

In other words, the buck stops with Chuck.

I just wish he would send a family photo every now and then.