New England native son Allen Doyle, who made his mark on the Senior Tour, won the inaugural Charles Schwab Cup in 2001 and “was thrilled beyond words.” He also said, “To be the first to have my name on that cup was a great accomplishment. When I met Mr. Schwab—he said, ‘Allen, call me Chuck’—I learned he had a real passion for the game. He has left a lasting legacy for what is now the Champions Tour.”

ChuckHead1aThe passion for the game has been a Charles Schwab trait ever since high school at Santa Barbara High School, California, where he was captain of the team, and that passion has not diminished to this day.

Another passion, and the one that has made Charles Schwab a household name, was his pioneering efforts in 1974 in the discount brokerage business. With a BA in economics and a Master of Business Administration, both from Stanford University, Charles Schwab, now 77, had the vision to revitalize the way that stock brokers operated. Today, his company is one of the nation’s leading full-service financial service firms with around $2.38 trillion in client assets.

A father of five children, Charles Schwab resides with his wife Helen in the San Francisco Bay Area. Along with Helen, he is active in several charities, especially around the Bay Area. On January 22, 2008, President George W. Bush named him chairman of the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Literacy.

OK, time to talk to Chuck.

NEGM: What was the impetus for your career in the investment industry?

CS: I was about thirteen when I started thinking about the stock market. These prices in the newspaper would change every day—what was that all about? I also read the biographies of great men and learned the most successful people in America came out of finance. So I wanted to learn about how they did it.

I was also good with numbers and enjoyed analyzing business and markets. All that led me into studying economics in college and then finance and business in graduate school. Then it was that giant leap into business, and in my case I started out as an analyst and got into the brokerage side of things later on as I saw new opportunities.

An accomplished golfer, Charles Schwab gives credit to his California pro, Alex Murray.

An accomplished golfer, Charles Schwab gives credit to his California pro, Alex Murray, for the improvement in his game.

NEGM: What has made your brokerage firm so successful?

CS: It’s been a pretty simple formula. Focus on your clients first. We’ve always sided with investors and tried to provide them with better deals. Originally it was reducing commissions from the hundreds of dollars full-service brokerages were charging. Later it was reducing mutual fund fees or offering the first no-fee IRA. In some ways, I started Schwab to serve people that were like me, who knew what they wanted and were interested in making their own choices and didn’t need to pay for advice that was often conflicted by high commissions. We’ve evolved from there, for sure, but the same approach has stuck with us and brought great success.

NEGM: How did you become involved with golf in the first place?

CS: I first got started in golf as a caddy. I also began playing golf with the Yolo Fliers Club in Woodland, California. Golf was a wonderful window into the world of business for me. I got to walk around all day listening to the conversations of the players I was caddying for. I learned how they thought and talked about business problems. It was a great exposure.

NEGM: To what golf courses do you belong?

CS: I belong to several courses and have been fortunate to play many courses around the world, but one of my favorites is Stock Farm in Hamilton, Montana, where I am a one of the founders. It’s a beautiful course set near the rugged mountains in western Montana. It’s a favorite place of mine for fishing as well as golf. And I am proud of the San Francisco course at Harding Park which is a beautiful public course.

NEGM: You have played with many pros and celebrities, so who would be in your Dream Foursome?

Phil and Chuck share a moment at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

Phil and Chuck share a moment at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

CS: I’ve played with several pros at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am plus other locations. One of my favorite playing partners is Phil Mickelson. He’s a real pleasure to play with. He is smart and has a great sense of humor and knows all about risk and reward.

Phil Mickelson, Fred Couples and Al Geiberger

NEGM: Why did you decide to sponsor the Charles Schwab Cup?

CS: Our clients and employees have a great affinity for the sport of golf, a game they both watch and play. As a result, our partnership with the PGA TOUR helps us to meet many of our marketing goals. We’ve had great success with our PGA TOUR and the Champions Tour over the past decade.

NEGM: Explain your struggle with dyslexia and what you have learned?

CS: It was very difficult initially. I thought I was pretty bright, but I struggled in English and writing. However, this taught me not to give up when something was difficult and to find my own way into success. I also learned a lasting lesson that applies to this day: that I wasn’t and can’t be good at everything and that I need to surround myself with people who can help me out. Also, I’ve always felt that I had very strong conceptual capabilities. I could imagine things much faster than some other people who were stuck thinking sequentially. That helped me in solving complicated business problems.

During the construction process of Stock Farm in Montana, Charles Schwab watches architect Tom Fazio point to a projected part of the course.

During the construction process of Stock Farm in Montana, Charles Schwab watches architect Tom Fazio point to a projected part of the course.

NEGM: With what charities are you involved?

CS: Helen and I are very involved in several charities. Our foundation gives to education and poverty-related charities here in the Bay Area. And we’ve been involved with the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art for a long time. I am currently chairman and we are halfway through a very exciting expansion of the museum.

NEGM: What goals or projects are still ahead for you?

CS: I remain focused on building a great and sustainable company that provides great benefit to the millions of clients doing business with us.