Join the Club!
How Schwab & TD Ameritrade are Integrating Their Cultures in a Virtual World
By Jamie Fox, Manager, Talent Acquisition
Learn more about the ways in which Schwab and TD Ameritrade are joining cultures through a Culture Club that explores making connections, exploring employee experience themes, sharing ideas, and empowering our employees to grow together.
If you talk to any Schwabbie—regardless of the business group or time of service with the firm—you’re going to hear about our stellar culture. You’ll hear about our Employee Resource Groups, our expansive community involvement, our relentless growth-mindset, and our sabbatical program. One question you might have is ‘what does culture look like now for the combined firm of Schwab and TD Ameritrade?’ Amy H., Managing Director of Product Management and Marketing, and Heather C., Business Transition Lead, have set out to answer this question through our new Culture Club and their work with the cultural integration workstream.
Amy: I’ve been with Schwab for about four years. My role in the integration with TD Ameritrade is on the CMEEE team. CMEEE is an acronym that stands for Culture, Morale, Engagement, and Employee transition Experience. CMEEE exists to convey that we see employees and the experiences that they’re having; we represent those views and those feelings as we think about all the change that takes place throughout the course of an integration.
Heather: I’ve been with TD Ameritrade for 12 years. I do the exact same thing that Amy does, but representing the legacy TD Ameritrade side of the house.
Amy: It’s been obviously harder to do this remotely. I think part of Schwab’s culture, and maybe part of our charm, is the sense of warmth, realizing that people genuinely care, which is evident when you’re able to get us in a room and build those relationships face to face. I think it is easier to build trust when you’re physically together and you can read people’s language a little better. We’ve done a really good job within this CMEEE team of intentionally being on video, having things like happy hours, getting to know each other personally. For instance, I know Heather’s husband’s name and all her kids’ names. I know her background and she knows mine. And I think we’ve genuinely formed a friendship, which makes our work easier.
Doing that to scale at 30,000 is tough. So, we are really big proponents of finding your person from the other legacy company, sharing your cell phone number, and being that person who you can reach out to and ask questions like, ‘How does this executive like to hear presentations?’ or when we return to office simple things like, ‘Where’s the bathroom?’ or whatever that might be. I will say that we can’t make the pandemic a crutch in this because we are globally spread out as a firm; there are still going to be offices all over the place and there are only a few places where legacy TD Ameritrade and legacy Schwab employees will be in the same town or space. While the pandemic has made it hard to not be able to go into a room, solve a problem and get out a whiteboard, and so forth, it doesn’t change the fact that we’re still spread out as a company. We have to figure out how culture works on Webex no matter what.
Heather: In some ways, doing it virtually has created connection points that we wouldn’t otherwise have. We didn’t have to wait to be in-person to get to know one another personally because, at the end of the day, when we do go back into the office, I’m still going to be in Westlake, and Amy’s still going to be in Austin, and we’re still going to be virtual 97.5% of the time probably. So being able to do it virtually has had some advantages. We’ve been able to get creative with things like virtual trivia across firms or what we call speed networking where we have breakout rooms. These allow people to meet individuals who they might not otherwise go talk to in an in-person scenario when it’s more natural to gravitate towards people you already know.
Heather: The things we just discussed really were the impetus. We knew that as a part of bringing these cultures together, we were going to have to create an environment and create events where people got to know one another and got to know the two firms as well. It became really apparent last summer that it wasn’t going to happen live and in person. We weren’t going to be able to wait until it could because, for one, it was unclear when that would be and, number two, we’re still geographically spread out. So we had to ask ourselves, ‘how do we create these events?’ We wanted them to serve multiple purposes. We wanted to be able to share aspects of the culture with people who are new to the firm and new through the acquisition, knowing there are people who have joined both Schwab and TD Ameritrade since we went remote during the pandemic. We want to introduce them to things about the culture to help them start understanding what it is actually like to work at this newly combined firm, but then we also wanted to create those connection touchpoints.
We’ve done a couple of different things. We kicked these off in January with the New Year and its new initiatives. We wanted to answer the questions of ‘What does goal planning and career planning look like at Schwab? How do you go through that process? What does it look like and what does it sound like?’ We brought in talent development partners to walk through what the tools are, what the resources are. Then we put people in breakout sessions to start sharing what they came up with and create accountability partnerships. It had exactly the effects we were wanting it to have. It really created those touchpoints. In February we dove into a very deep, strategic topic for Schwab where we were discussing the diversity and inclusion strategy—what the framework looks like and how that plays out at Schwab and in the marketplace. We had over 800 people dial into that session. We know that then led to conversations out within the communities. From there, we pivoted and have done a couple of fun networking trivia events, getting to know people based on their interests, and so forth. Amy and I sat down and built out a calendar for the year asking questions like, ‘What would be timely with some of the integration milestones? How do we create awareness with people around things like getting involved in the Employee Resource Groups at Schwab? What is it like to take your sabbatical?’
Amy: We were surprised at some of the survey feedback that we received after our events. In March we started our “friend-working,” which is not about networking around the business unit you’re a part of, but rather a hobby you have or something you like to do—running or binge-watching or gardening and so forth. One of the comments that stuck out to me in the survey after this session was: ‘This event was a lot of fun—probably the best casual work event I’ve participated in, even outside of the work from home environment.’ What Heather and I talked about when we read that, among other quotes, was just how easy it is to help people connect and create—to make them feel seen and give them an opportunity to be with like-minded people. People need that right now and it feels like something that people are really impacted by.
Heather: I think so. We’ve been encouraged and humbled by the feedback. We don’t have an ego about these events—if we receive constructive feedback on something, we’ll do it differently next time. People are engaged and we will continue to be creative with it. People are craving to make those kinds of connections and have that desire to talk about more than just work with their new colleagues.
Amy: We also have a Culture Club Microsoft Teams channel and members of our channel can make their own breakout groups. They’ve made an automotive group, an innovation group, a binge-watching group. There are several that have sprung up from that one event. We have that friend-working at play where legacy Schwab and legacy TD Ameritrade employees are making connections. For an upcoming event, we are going to read Chuck’s book and Carrie Schwab-Pomeranz is going to come in and join the conversation. She’ll spend the first half-hour giving her front-row seat view of Chuck’s life and the journey of building Schwab. We’ll then break out into book groups and talk about our perspective on the book immediately following the talk with Carrie. Innovation is also a big topic of interest, so we’re going to share how innovation at Schwab is handled and share employee voices and how people can get involved. You don’t have to come from an ‘innovation team’ to be innovative at Schwab. It will be nice to direct people on where they can go when they have a bright idea. And all of this loops into our ERGs and things they are doing as well.
Amy: As long as we have the appetite from employees and we think we can contribute positively to the combination of the cultures.
Heather: Right. As long as we have people registering. As long as we have people asking questions and demonstrating interest in learning about different topics. This is a bridge. The integration is going to take a while. And some groups are further along in their integration than others. So this is a way to provide that access to that cultural learning and that networking that you would have achieved either within your business unit or within an ERG—this is another vehicle.
Amy: I think it’s an exciting time to be at Schwab. It’s a big integration and it’s happening virtually. We are finding creative ways to make it work. It has put our culture in overdrive. There are a lot of opportunities for anyone to come into the firm and make their mark right now. In addition to the focus on the integration, there is a lot of great work happening across Schwab to serve our clients in the best way possible. All of our employees have the opportunity to make a splash in their specific business unit as we come out of the worst of the pandemic.
Heather: People are getting to forge a new path forward and build upon Schwab’s culture—you would get to help be a part of creating the combined firm. There are so many people that are excited to be a part of such a historical integration and so much energy about the future potential created by our combination. Being a part of that, finding your buddies, engaging in new and creative ways to meet people and get to know one another, it’s all very special.
By Jamie Fox, Manager, Talent Acquisition