What Schwab’s Commission-Free ETF Plan Could Mean for Investors
December 19th 2012 at 5:59am by Tom Lydon
A commission-free market of exchange traded funds. Is it too good to be true?. Charles Schwab (NYSE: SCHW) is reportedly in the process of creating such a platform, but it will probably still cost investors something.
“Schwab is in the process of creating a commission-free-ETF supermarket that will include products from a variety of providers, according to Reuters. Only Schwab’s proprietary ETFs are available commission-free to its brokerage customers,” Jason Kephart wrote for InvestmentNews. [How to Calculate the Total Cost of an ETF]
Three years ago Charles Schwab introduced the commission-free ETF trade for in-house brokerage accounts. This was the first step in a chain reaction of other providers lowering their fees, or offering free in-house trades. The provider is pioneering a new ETF supermarket, which will have a 5- to 10-basis-point distribution and marketing fee which Schwab has proposed that the ETF providers pay to be on the platform. It would be similar to the 12(b)-1 fees that some mutual funds charge, reports Kephart. [Schwab Mulls Commission-Free ETF Platform: Report]
According to a recent Reuters report, none of the big three heavyweight ETF providers are on board — yet. BlackRock, Vanguard and State Street Global Advisors have yet to join in. Together, these three providers account for 83.5% of the $1.3 trillion circulating in the industry.
The trade-off? Some of the most low-cost ETFs may actually double the operating expenses, and this essentially gets passed down to the investor. In some instances, costs will go up if they are in the “free” platform. Critics say the smaller accounts would not be negatively affected, however, larger portfolios over $100,000 would not benefit. The supermarket of free ETFs has been viewed as a way for the provider to grab a piece of ETF market share. [Four ETF Cost Factors to Weigh Beyond Expense Ratios]
“It’s the most expensive commission-free program an investor will ever see,” Rick Ferri, founder of Portfolio Solutions LLC, said in the report. “It seems, from their perspective, in line with a strategy to become a one-stop shop for ETF investors,” he said.
Tisha Guerrero contributed to this article.
The opinions and forecasts expressed herein are solely those of Tom Lydon, and may not actually come to pass. Information on this site should not be used or construed as an offer to sell, a solicitation of an offer to buy, or a recommendation for any product.