Charles Schwab earnings: CEO says year ‘certainly the most challenging since the bursting of the internet bubble in 2000’


Charles Schwab Corp. reported declines in profit, new assets and deposits as it navigated a tumultuous year of interest rate hikes that dented the firm’s balance sheet — a set of results that initially sent its shares tumbling.   

Schwab said net new assets fell 48% to $66.3 billion in the fourth quarter while net income also dropped by almost half. Bank deposits in the period declined 21% to $290 billion and the company’s total retail brokerage accounts fell short of analyst estimates at 34.8 million. Play Video

Shares in the company fell as much as 7% before paring some of those losses. They traded at $63 at 12:47 p.m. in New York, down about 1.7%.

Schwab closed out what was one of the firm’s most turbulent years in its five-decade-plus history, swept up in the regional banking chaos as interest rate hikes eroded the value of its investments. Consumers also pulled their deposits in search of higher-yielding alternatives, compounding those pressures. 

“No one at Schwab is kidding themselves that everything is perfect right now,” Chief Executive Officer Walt Bettinger said Wednesday during a call discussing earnings. “Perhaps it was the most challenging in my time at Schwab — certainly the most challenging since the bursting of the internet bubble in 2000.”

Like a number of financial firms, the Westlake, Texas-based brokerage and bank saw its funding costs rise as the Federal Reserve hiked rates and depositors started pouring cash into money market funds and other higher-yielding instruments. The firm responded by turning to higher-cost funding sources, such as retail certificates of deposit and Federal Home Loan Bank advances.

On Wednesday, Chief Financial Officer Peter Crawford reiterated that the firm is moving away from those sources, saying it repaid 18% of peak balances reached in May 2023, “as realignment activity decelerated by almost 80% during the second half of the year, including a seasonal increase in client cash in December.” 

Last spring, paper losses on long-dated bonds spooked depositors at some regional banks. Bettinger recently said that his firm and others are weighing shortening the durations of their securities books, helping them avoid similar losses in the future. On Wednesday, Crawford said the firm’s earnings potential should grow as it pays down the higher-cost borrowings and “as we reinvest our securities portfolio at higher market rates than what we currently earn.”

The firm also said it continues to see a path to a net interest margin approaching 3% before the end of 2025, as well as a longer-term goal of a 20% to 30% dividend payout ratio, plus buybacks, it said. 

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