Why Charles Schwab is putting on a TV show
- For the past four years, Charles Schwab has put on a web-streamed live show to engage its customers.
- The content of "Schwab Live" doesn't just include finance; fireside chats with influencers add a degree of authenticity for the brand.
At a production studio inside the Renaissance Hotel in Times Square last week, producers gathered for a four-hour live shoot featuring, among other segments, an interview with Tom Brokaw. But this wasn't a TV shoot -- not in the traditional sense, at least. It was a live broadcast for "Schwab Live," a show put on by brokerage firm Charles Schwab that appears on its website and as a paid video stream on CNBC, Bloomberg and Yahoo Finance. "Schwab Live," which the company started four years ago, streams almost every day; programs typically range from one to four hours. A few times a year, Schwab organizes a sort of mega-show that consists of a number of mini-segments. Daily content can include educational material, webinars, panel discussions and interviews. Content can vary widely, with recent segments covering options trading, how what's happening in the news can affect the markets (for example, Brexit and the U.S. election) and one-on-one interviews with prominent personalities. It's an interactive experience for customers, who can ask questions for the experts as the show unfolds. Customers can type directly into a panel below the video stream. Barry Metzger, svp of trading services at Charles Schwab, says the videos are an opportunity to get practical advice relating to their investment portfolios. "We're trying to fill a need for those clients," said Metzger. "They don't necessarily want to walk into a branch; they're self-directed and want actionable ideas, and they want them as quickly as possible." Metzger wouldn't say how many people tune into the webcasts, but he confirms that it's in the thousands and keeps growing. While Schwab doesn't post recordings of all its live content, it posts excerpts on social media, including Facebook and Twitter. Six months ago, a clip with Randy Frederick, vp of trading and derivatives at the Schwab Center for Financial Research, and Kathy Jones, svp and chief fixed income strategist at the Schwab Center, garnered nearly 7,300 views. "The goal is not to get them to trade more, but keep them informed and ask more questions, and take more ownership of their portfolio," he said. As for what type of customer the company is trying to reach, Metzger said anyone can access it, but typically those with higher asset values are the more engaged customers. The finance industry is increasingly getting into live video as a way to market products, with recent shows produced by T. Rowe Price and Bank of America. "Every company is a media company and a publisher; [brands] need to find ways to captivate, educate and inform people in an entertaining way," said customer experience analyst Blake Morgan. "Now, that's not only up to a publisher -- every company needs to see itself as a content creator." Schwab works with three creative agencies to make the show possible, including Universal McCann, The Richards Group and Third Rail Creative. Sean Dorminy, brand manager for The Richards Group, said it's important for the branded live show to appear as professional as possible, modeled after business networks people recognize like Bloomberg and CNBC. "It's a move from cable access TV to a more professional broadcast type of production," he said. For Schwab, the live video complements the text the company has produced for many years, including magazines that focus on the “shared values” that the brand has with its customers’ lifestyles. Video is another way to reinforce that. "Schwab Live" doesn't just focus on the weeds of finance, with one-on-one interviews with people including Condoleezza Rice, Alan Greenspan, Ben Bernanke, Nate Silver and Brokaw. The topics of these discussions aren't restricted to finance; sometimes, they touch on politics or the state of the media today. "It certainly adds to the brand validity to say, 'Here's who we're associated with, these influential people,'" said Morgan, who adds that Charlie Rose-style fireside chats can make the brand seem more authentic, especially if the guest can show a degree of vulnerability. "Companies see value in being real, being better listeners; it's like they see and hear what's happening in society and don't have their heads in the sand." Photo courtesy of Charles Schwab