Chip Roame
(Managing Principal, Tiburon Strategic Advisors)

Tiburon CEO Summit Awards

Tiburon Strategic Advisors, a market research & strategy consulting firm serving a wide variety of financial institutions and investment managers, recently awarded its inaugural Tiburon CEO Summit Awards to Charles Schwab (Chairman, The Charles Schwab Corporation) & Ken Fisher (CEO, Fisher Investments). This release highlights some of the key points made by both award recipients.

Tiburon’s CEO Summits are built around two key themes:

  • Maintaining a focus on consumer needs
  • Challenging conventional wisdom

In the spirit of recognizing leaders in the financial services industry who have excelled at applying one or both of these concepts, Tiburon awarded its inaugural Tiburon CEO Summit Awards. Charles Schwab (Chairman, The Charles Schwab Corporation) received Tiburon's award for Maintaining a Focus on Consumer Needs. Ken Fisher (CEO, Fisher Investments) received Tiburon's award for Challenging Conventional Wisdom. Tiburon believes that maintaining a focus on consumer needs and challenging conventional wisdom are two of the keys to success in the rapidly evolving financial services industry. These awards were presented at Tiburon CEO Summit XVII on October 7, 2009:

Charles Schwab accepts his Tiburon CEO Summit Award for Maintaining a Focus on Consumer Needs
Charles Schwab (Chairman, The Charles Schwab Corporation) - Tiburon's Maintaining a Focus on Consumer Needs Award

Charles Schwab started the well-known San Francisco based brokerage firm that goes by his name in the early 1970s. Subsequently, Mr. Schwab has served as chairman of The Charles Schwab Corporation since incorporation of the firm in 1986. He also served as CEO or co-CEO from 1986 to 2008. Today, The Charles Schwab Corporation is one of the nation's leading providers of financial services, with 12,000 employees, more than 300 branches nationwide, approximately 10 million client accounts, & $1.2 trillion in client assets.

Mr. Schwab is the author of several books, was named chairman of the President's Advisory Council on Financial Literacy in 2008, and, along with his wife Helen, is the co-founder & chairman of the Charles & Helen Schwab Foundation, a nonprofit organization that focuses on helping children with learning disabilities and supporting low income families through initiatives in poverty prevention, homelessness, & substance abuse.

Mr. Schwab was presented Tiburon's Maintaining a Focus on Consumer Needs award because of the numerous consumer-centric innovations of The Charles Schwab Corporation, including its discount brokerage, telephone-based services, branches, web based trading, mutual fund supermarket, and its custodial, operational, & trading support services for independent fee-based financial advisors.

Mr. Schwab sat down with Tiburon managing principal Chip Roame to discuss some of the factors that have contributed to his success as well as to discuss some of his opinions about the state of the financial services industry. Some of the highlights are included:

When Mr. Roame asked how Mr. Schwab has been able to maintain a focus on consumer needs while also consistently introducing innovations to the industry, Mr. Schwab said that timing is everything. He went on to say that it is important not only to be in the right place at the right time, but to recognize and then act on opportunities as they present themselves. One of Mr. Schwab's key points was that he has always asked himself how a given situation will affect the common guy, and that this consideration, more than any other, caused him to rethink what a customer was and to reclassify customers as clients. Mr. Schwab referred to ETFs as Schwab's next big initiative.

When Mr. Roame asked about Mr. Schwab's insights into what might lead the recovery of the financial services industry, Mr. Schwab said that the basic fundamental values of middle America - family, saving, & college education - are still the leading factors in considering how to reach clients. He also went on to acknowledge the debate over how to move forward ideologically, and said that in any case, the financial services industry must evolve to inherently embrace high ethical standards.

When an audience member asked how Mr. Schwab has been able to consistently generate ideas that work, Mr. Schwab talked about the value of testing - starting small market and moving bigger as successful testing warranted. He specifically mentioned that he has oftentimes considered his own needs when considering the needs of the masses. In one case, as Mr. Schwab preferred no-load mutual funds in his IRA account, this may have led to the genesis of the mutual fund marketplace at The Charles Schwab Corporation.

Ken Fisher accepts his Tiburon CEO Summit Award for Challenging Conventional Wisdom
Ken Fisher (CEO, Fisher Investments) - Tiburon's Challenging Conventional Wisdom Award

Ken Fisher has been CEO of Fisher Investments since founding the firm in 1979. His firm is the largest direct marketer in asset management and depending on one's definition, the largest fee-based financial advisor. Today, Fisher Investments has 950 employees, 85 professional sales people, tens of thousands of clients, and more than $30 billion assets under management.

Mr. Fisher’s theoretical work in the early 1970s yielded a tool known as the price-to-sales ratio, now a core element of financial curriculum. Mr. Fisher is also known for his Portfolio Strategy financial investment column featured monthly in Forbes magazine, where his 25-year tenure makes him the fourth longest-running columnist in the magazine's 92-year history. His recent research, published in professional & scholarly journals, focuses on behavioral finance.

Mr. Fisher was presented Tiburon's Challenging Conventional Wisdom award because in almost every facet of his business he has challenged the trends of others, including his use of direct mail, web based advertising, & infomercials; the use of dedicated sales people and a separate dedicated service organization; aversion to hiring graduates of big name universities; telephone based service model; and well defined job descriptions with unparalleled levels of specialization of labor.

Mr. Fisher sat down with Tiburon managing principal Chip Roame to discuss some of the factors that have contributed to his success as well as to discuss some of Mr. Fisher's opinions about the state of the financial services industry. Some of the highlights are included:

When Mr. Roame asked how Mr. Fisher has been able to challenge conventional wisdom, Mr. Fisher said that there are two ways to think about the question - internally & externally. Mr. Fisher said that externally, his only real contribution has been the price-to-sales ratio work that he did in prior decades, but that internally, at Fisher Investments, he continues to challenge conventional wisdom daily, saying that he prefers never-yet-done-practices over best-practices.

When Mr. Roame asked about Mr. Fisher's insights into what might lead the recovery of the financial services industry, Mr. Fisher said that financial services professionals must lead with innovations that are good for consumers. He also said it is vital that the industry monitor itself, that there always be a sense of Am I Doing the Right Thing? driving any decision that is made.

When an audience member asked how Mr. Fisher maintains very high client retention at Fisher Investments despite the firm's unusual sales-oriented structure, Mr. Fisher explained the value of binding both employees & clients to his firm. In binding employees to his firm, Mr. Fisher discussed the necessity of each employee having a breadth & depth of experience in order for promotion. In binding clients to his firm, Mr. Fisher discussed the importance of frequent client interactions and specifically about managing client expectations. He said that both considerations are important to maintaining a robust business.

To learn more about the upcoming Tiburon CEO Summit XVIII, please click here or contact Sarah Sage at SSage@TiburonAdvisors.Com or 415-789-2540.