June 18, 2010

Going Rogue at Charles Schwab

Another good day for Broke Girl. Invited to a luncheon at the Swisshotel for a presentation by SVP, Head of Portfolio Consulting for Charles Schwab, the company where I've parked my regular IRA and Roth IRA retirement money for many years. (Shout out to Uncle Sam--thanks again, for the free money--for never charging me a single red, white, or blue cent in taxes on the capital gains, dividends and interest earned in my Roth IRA retirement savings accounts.)

I had hoped to get some scoop from Mr. Big on his Firm's economic investing outlook, maybe a tidbit to share with you tonight. So disappointed was I that I left 30 minutes into the presentation--and without touching the crème brulée with fresh raspberries on the plate before me! The executive who introduced the keynoter first regaled the audience of one hundred with stories of her youth in Oklahoma's tornado belt, and not-so-smoothly segued into happy chat about risk, fear and tolerance within context of current markets. Fine. However, this executive spoke with possibly the worst grammar I have heard from any speaker, ever--I mean, she had trouble with basic verb tenses, adverbs and more, and made no attempt to correct herself. (I'm still embarrassed that I once made an awful gaffe on live international television when I said, "...the products retailers have lain out for you to purchase." Awful, it sounded. I admit it, but it was a one-off thing, uncommon for me.)

I soon grimaced and lost track of the storyline as her grammar made like fingernails across chalkboard. I exchanged looks with the businessman on my right and whispered, "The tornado analogy is a bit ingenuous, but it is almost impossible to take from one so grammatically challenged." He sighed and nodded in agreement. Then the keynoter rose to the dais. With no mention of current market and economic indicators he launched into the old and tired: diversification is good, yada yada. I left.

I totally would have sat it out; hopeful he'd have concluded with some sharp observation re: a segment of the economy or markets, but as I sat in the wake of Miss-Grammatical, I began to wonder about the risk management practices within the entity that is Charles Schwab.

Surely, no one can give a presentation to a few hundred of the Firm's clients at a swanky luncheon (no rubber chicken; I detected a pungent bit of thyme) without first being thoroughly vetted. Without having given practice presentations, been observed and critiqued on prior speeches, or worked with an in-house communications strategy coach.

I left this luncheon thinking that things are out of control at Schwab. If that sort of rogue thing can happen at a lunch for investors (and I have to be at the bottom of the list of invitees, with my small bit o' investments), I truly wonder what else is going on. What sort of risk management practices are in place throughout the firm. Like IT controls, practices and procedures around confidential client information. Policies about when, what and how employees, temp workers, or external consultants can access information. Checks on compliance with laws or SEC, Fed regulations. Quality control; product research, development and launch; crises preparedness, systems firewalls and who is on first.

I mean, if the executive of a world-wide investment service provider cannot speak in a manner that would get her no better than a "C" grade from Mrs. Newcomer's high school English class (a shout-out to Waldron High School's stern but awesome English teacher, now aged 90), then what in the world are we in for, folks?

Tell me, am I over-reacting, or am I, more likely, on to something--an teeny indicator of an enormous lack. Absence of check-points; a top-down poor- or mismanagement. Lack of protocols such that high-level, face-of-the-firm employees have no minimum standards of doing, speaking and striving to achieve and deliver the best and finest they can. This is one of the world's largest providers of investment services. I may take my little bits of money and go packing. I now worry; what other basic business protocols are in lack at this worldwide global-thon of a company?

1 comment:

  1. I think of all the English teachers I had at Waldron, including my mom, would say, "Preach it sister!"

    And yes, poor grammer reflects on the quality of the company. The "Ada Soap Factory" does a lot of special events with the distributer organization, and a speaker with poor grammer would not "cut the mustard" at all.

    Thanks for the shout out to mom... :)

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