Challenge Model Practice
Financial Life Planning for Women Month

Charles Schwab & Co. 

Principle V: Business, supply chain, and marketing practices

Principle VI: Civic and community engagement

2013 Challenge Submission

Charles Schwab & Co. is a San Francisco-based brokerage and banking company with services for investing in various instruments, particularly mutual funds in their own line as well as other companies. 

Schwab is committed to building financial literacy as a stepping stone to lifelong financial health and well-being.

“Everyone matters – this isn’t a sentiment we share solely to burnish our brand or reputation. It’s a belief that is core to the success of our company, and our industry. To execute on our belief that everyone matters, our company must build a workforce that mirrors the diversity of our clients and the communities we serve, and leverage the diversity of our experiences, strengths, culture and thought.”
Walt Bettinger
President and Chief Executive Officer, Charles Schwab & Co.

Schwab's Financial Life Planning for Women Month began at the grassroots level with the Women’s Interactive Network at Schwab (WINS), one of Schwab’s seven company-sponsored employee resource groups (ERGs). WINS rallied together under a strategic initiative to deepen relationships with and empower women investors.

With a focus on aligning Schwab’s diversity strategy with business priorities, the Diversity & Inclusion team led research and business case development in partnership with WINS ERG leaders. New cross-functional partnerships were built across the country to create awareness about this unique opportunity to empower women investors while growing its business.

The team assessed workshop attendance and found that 70%-80% of attendees were men. This led them to gather insights and feedback from clients and develop investor workshops that would better address women’s needs. Soon after the team refined the business case with supporting market intelligence, executive sponsorship was locked in.

How does this model practice work?

Step #1: Unleash the power of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)

ERGs are passionate about making a contribution to the community. To build their engagement and ability to make an impact, the Diversity & Inclusion team helped ERG leaders understand the business opportunity and provided a strategic framework aligned with talent and growth priorities at Schwab. 

“By creating these new workshops for women we have been able to engage more women investors. Sharing with them the importance of taking charge of their finances and empowering them to plan for their future.”
Regional Branch Executive, Charles Schwab & Co.

Research pointed out that women face different life experiences than men and many times are less engaged in long-term investment planning and more involved in day-to-day household finances. As a result, women investors tend to have less saved for retirement. 


With a well-developed workshop program already in place, Schwab tailored content to address issues most relevant to women. Schwab teamed up with Communispace, a consumer collaboration agency that helps companies gain important insights from consumers. Communispace used targeted research to reach Schwab’s female clients, asking them to design their ideal workshop in detail. Schwab used this feedback to create inclusive workshops that prepare women to learn important concepts about managing their savings and investments. 

Step #2: Pilot the unexpected

Schwab believes that the same financial services and advice are critically important to both women and men. For the past two years, Schwab has hosted special workshops along with other engaging events for women during the month of May. Investor workshop topics include: “Seven Tips for Getting Your Financial House in Order,” “Let’s Talk Money and Life Events,” and “Why Everyone Needs an Estate Plan.” Retail branch offices and service centers across the country invited guest authors who spoke about different topics including: change and the loss of a partner, fashion, self-defense, and building leadership capabilities. For example in Indianapolis, Schwab hosted a theatrical production: “Love, Loss, and What I Wore.” The event included clients, guests, and the non-profit organization Dress for Success. This play related to women in different stages and aspects of their lives. 

Step #3: Pay it forward

Financial literacy and community service are central to Schwab’s core values. The benefits from the women investor workshops also extended far into the community. Schwab funded film screenings of Girl Rising in support of 10x10, a global action campaign for girls’ education. Over 100 screenings were hosted across the country, for the benefit of clients, Schwab employees and their families, and community-based organizations such as local Boys & Girls Clubs and the Girl Scouts.

"I must tell you that Charles Schwab has really shown what a great company it is with the type of commitment and dedication it has shown by hosting the Girl Rising Event last evening. The employees of the firm are outstanding and we could not stop talking about what a refreshing experience it was for us to see what your team has put together. I would like to nominate Charles Schwab for some kind of award! All companies should use your example of how to give back.” – Workshop attendee, Girl Rising Event, Florida

Schwab has designed over 40 workshops with specialized tools for Schwab financial consultants to tailor their practice to women investors at all levels in their financial knowledge. The new workshops include a facilitator guide, talking points, and an ice-breaker. There are also self-directed training tools for the financial consultants including a dedicated site for all employees to read industry articles and additional research. These tools enable Schwab financial consultants to create an opportunity to increase their knowledge of finances and open up the conversation about the unique financial challenges facing women. “After an initial consultation, your FC helped me get my wife involved with the training programs available at the local Schwab office and has followed up with reminders about others that have been available since then. He understands that I like investing on my own, but that we (my FC and I) have a job to do to be sure my wife is capable of dealing with the investments once I am gone (not that I am going anywhere anytime soon). My FC understands this and has been helpful in making that training happen.” – Schwab client

Schwab’s second annual Financial Life Planning for Women Month was available across its entire network of 300 Schwab branches and seven service centers across the United States. With high engagement of clients and employees, WINS chapters at Schwab have grown to cover over 20 regions across the company in the last few years, including chapters in Puerto Rico, Hong Kong and London.

How can I adopt this model practice in my workplace?

This program can be easily duplicated by using these three principles:

  1. Leverage the Passion of Your Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)
    ERGs believe in making an impact and giving back to their community. Strategically align them with the purpose, vision, and values of your organization.

  2. Gain Executive Sponsor Support
    To be successful, involve your executives early. Executive Sponsors drive change across the organization, expanding your efforts beyond HQ and involving the Field.

  3. Think Outside the Box – Engage in a Way that is Unexpected
    Create new ways of engaging people (women or other clients) and build relationships and loyalty. Tailor it to your industry and your needs.

Women’s Financial Status Statistics

The following facts are from The Female Factor 2008: Why Women Are at Greater Financial Risk in Retirement and How Annuities Can Help.

  • Women work an average of 12 years less than men do over their lifetimes due to family caregiving responsibilities. Fewer work years translates to fewer years saving or participating in an employment-based retirement program.
  • Women earn 77 cents for every dollar earned by men. The median earnings of full-time working women are about $10,000 less than those of working men. When part-time workers are included, the median earnings for all women drop to $13,000 below men’s earnings. As a result of lower earnings, the median income in retirement for women is only 58 percent of men’s.
  • Women, on average, are expected to live 80 years from birth, compared to men’s life expectancy of 74 years. The number of women over age 85 is expected to triple over the next 40 years, which means retirement savings will need to stretch over more years.
  • Women in particular are living longer than ever and are likely to spend some of their retirement years alone due to widowhood or divorce. For women age 85 and older, only 13 percent are married with a spouse present.
  • Women who are living alone face a much greater risk of declining living standards or poverty in old age.
  • Retired women receive 87% less in social security, causing women to require more self-funding for their retirement.
  • 43% of IRA holders in 2008 were women, and their average balance was 56% that of men.
  • Over half of elderly widows living in poverty were not living in poverty before their husbands died.


Reference to articles:

  1. Rosensteel, Sean. "Consumer Collaboration: How Charles Schwab Used Real-Time Research To Enhance Relationships." Forbes. N.p., 19 Apr. 2013. Web.
  2. Silverstein, Michael J., and Kate Sayre. "The Female Economy." Harvard Business Review. 2009. Print.
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