Knowledge Center

Charles Schwab & Co.—Building a Culture: No Ceilings, No Barriers, No Limits

Since its start 25 years ago, Charles Schwab & Co. has been building an inclusive, open, and values-driven culture reflective of its founder’s vision for an equitable workforce. Schwab’s vision is that each employee is judged on ability and given the chance to reach maximum potential, regardless of race or gender. The firm’s unique culture supports this vision and continues to thrive, in part because of a communications effort that pervades all areas of the business. Schwab also recognized that a market advantage could result from recruiting and developing traditionally under-represented segments of the financial services workforce. The result: women make up a key talent base at Schwab.

Cutting-edge communications efforts support Schwab’s culture, ensuring it’s continuity in the midst of the financial service industry’s rapidly developing and changing business environment. Schwab’s intranet site is updated daily to reflect what’s going on in the organization. Firm-wide e-mails and voice mails from the co-CEOs, along with an open-door policy practiced by senior management, work to reinforce top-down support of the values-driven culture. Employees hold each other accountable for living the Schwab vision and upholding its cultural values. The company continually strives to embed its values in the organization amidst the firm’s rapid growth by using cultural alignment as screening criteria for managerial candidates. The firm also requires a two-day orientation – addressing Schwab’s values – for all new employees.  It uses learning maps and interactive games and activities and posts vision and values statements in prominent areas throughout the firm. An employee survey serves as a formal measure of accountability. After close analysis of the annual surveys, managers build action plans and are then held accountable in their performance reviews for implementation of these plans. Hiring, turnover, retention, time in grade, and participation rates in training programs are tracked by race and gender. Results are shared with the co-CEOs and at each quarterly business unit update.  In addition, a host of recruitment, development, advancement, and work/life programs reinforce the culture.

Schwab’s initiative, Building a Culture: No Ceilings, No Barriers, No Limits, has been successful for women: women make up 39 percent of Schwab’s workforce and 36 percent of corporate officers. Two of the company’s five vice chairmen are women, and two women sit on the 12-member board of directors. Due to the strong presence of women in senior management, 77 percent of Schwab’s employees ultimately report to a woman.