Schwab Files To Enter ETF Marketplace

February 09, 2009

The huge discount brokerage house and asset manager is setting plans to move into ETFs.

[Correction: This article had originally noted incorrectly that there was no exchange-traded fund currently tracking the Dow Jones Wilshire 5000. However State Street Global Advisors' family of ETFs includes a fund that tracks the index, the SPDR Dow Jones Wilshire 5000 ETF (NYSE Arca: TMW).]

It looks like one of the world's biggest financial services firms has decided to throw its hat into the exchange-traded funds marketplace.

On January 30, Charles Schwab & Co. (NASDAQ: SCHW) filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission for the exemptive relief that would allow it to create ETFs.

The fund described in the filing would track the Dow Jones U.S. TotalStock Market Index, which covers all publicly traded U.S. stocks withreadily available pricing information.

If that description sounds familiar, it's probably because it's anawful lot like the description of the Dow Jones Wilshire 5000 Index.Long considered the "true" total market index, it currently underlies an ETF in the SPDR family. Meanwhile, the iShares familyincludes an ETF that tracks the narrower Dow Jones U.S. Index, which covers 95% of total U.S. stock market capitalization.

The Schwab filing makes reference to other possible index-tracking ETFs. But the only one it mentions specifically is a total stock market type of fund. 

The firm has more than $1 trillion in client assets and about $24 billion in market capitalization. So, Schwab certainly has the resources and assets to become an instant 800-pound gorilla in the field.

A spokesman on Monday morning confirmed that Schwab is moving foreward with plans to enter the ETF marketplace. But he declined further comments until regulators have ruled on the exemptive relief request. 

The discount brokerage and asset manager's operations include investment research, mutual funds and retail banking, among other services. With its low-cost brokerage operations and its mutual fund operations, which include several index funds, ETFs seem to be a logical next step.

And its greatest advantage might be the fact that it has the financial capability to nurture new ETFs through those critical first years, when they might not be significant money makers.

Read the filing here.



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