At the Charles Schwab Charlotte office there might be a 3 p.m. ice cream break, or an invitation to eat lunch while cheering a favorite NCAA team during March Madness. The annual chili cook-off participation is so high you’d think the reward was cash, rather than just bragging rights.
Kristin Studioso, managing director for Schwab Technology, calls them FUI: Fun, Uplifting and Inspiring events. “We give people a reason to leave their offices and to connect to each other,” she says.
Charles Schwab Company is a wealth management and investment advisory company, with 1,400 employees in 325 offices. The Charlotte office employs 56. The building is split between a retail branch and Schwab Technology, which builds tools used by the retirement community to service 401(k) plans.
Jeff Norton is vice president of the retail division, where he helps financial consultants understand the array of products offered by the firm. The company’s client-centric philosophy has kept him happy in his job for 22 years. “This place is incredible because the people have a common purpose, which is to help every client with whom we do business. The people are the difference makers here,” he says. “We have a spirit of service that fosters us.”
Studioso has worked for Schwab for more than 20 years. “In addition to promoting people, one of the things that engages our employees is there are lots of projects and learning opportunities. People get to see something built from scratch and introduced to the marketplace. Technology people like to build cool new things,” she says.
Management uses results of an annual engagement survey to measure employee satisfaction, and ensure staffers have the tools to do their jobs. “When employees are highly engaged it reflects on their interaction with clients, with our business, and with our stockholders,” says Norton.
There’s a national Charles Schwab volunteer week, but the Charlotte employees also pitch in locally, organizing inventory at a Habitat ReStore, and sorting through textbooks at Myers Park Traditional School. Every employee receives eight hours of paid time off to invest in causes important to them. In conjunction with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, the company provides a course called Money Matters: Make It Count. It teaches kids how to budget, save, and invest.
“We have a collaborative environment,” says Studioso. “It’s an open door policy, it is a collective discussion,” she says.
Norton agrees, and adds, “I get to learn something new every single day.”