Q-and-A with Charles Schwab CEO Walt Bettinger

Can the average person get a fair shake in the market?

I think that if you are an investor, you can definitely get a fair shake. An investor is someone who has a plan, takes a long-term perspective and is not trying to guess. If you are someone who believes that you are going to beat the market by timing it, by guessing, by trading on a highly different basis, you must be exceptional. And there are some people who are exceptional at that, but that is a very, very tiny percent. The vast majority of people are far better served by not trying to time the market, not trying to beat those dark pools, not trying to beat the algorithm of high-frequency traders. Have a plan. Take a long-term view. Be in an ownership position. Owners generally are paid better than lenders and stocks generally outperform bonds over the long term. And stick to a plan.

I certainly personally would never try to time and beat the market and beat those folks. I would have no chance.

What is one decision either regarding your personal finances or an investment as an individual that you really regret making?

How much time do we have? I do not know that I can boil it down to one. I guess I would say looking back to the Internet bubble, I probably held onto a few stocks a little longer than probably made sense. But there are too many that I can speak to. If I had just had that professional advice and a plan, I would have been a whole lot better off.

We went through a flash crash in the stock market and there have been regulatory responses to that. Are these kinds of things keeping you up at night?

We live in an imperfect world. And we live in an imperfect world because it is a world operated by human beings. And as long as that is the case, we will have things periodically go wrong, whether it is technology related or whatever you want to fill in the blank on. With respect to hack attacks, certainly there is a burgeoning form of conflict among us as a country and a society and among those who have beliefs that are very different than ours. And the battlefield of the future may be very different than the battlefields of the past. Fortunately, we have extraordinary professionals across our government assisting here. But we should not kid ourselves. That is a battle that is going on every day and every minute and I can assure you, it is going on in the services of Charles Schwab at this very moment.

How much of a priority is it for you to ensure as perfect a system as you can, knowing that there are a lot of things you cannot know?

Well, a lot of the things I know I cannot talk about. It is a high priority, of course. But I just want to always provide the context -- the honest and transparent context of the reality that we will live in an imperfect world and there will periodically be issues that will be, for the most part, impossible to prevent, despite all best efforts.

I think what our goal needs to be and what my goal needs to be, is to minimize the frequency and the severity of those as opposed to believe that I have some way to prevent them entirely. The bad guys are smart, too. And the idea that we are going to win at every turn is not realistic.


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