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Opinion

Schwab is at its Wit's end

First Wit dumped its attempt to build a retail platform. Next, it dumped its name, and moved out of its Silicon Alley headquarters in New York to Connecticut. Then last year Charles Schwab Capital Markets bought it. At least Wit, by then Soundview, the name of the boutique it bought in 1999, was joining a like-minded firm with ambitions to change how markets work.

But Schwab has not had any more luck. Former CEO David Pottruck, ousted last year after three years of underperformance, had been determined to make Schwab bigger in institutional equities. But Epoch Partners, an investment bank he set up with TD Waterhouse, Ameritrade and three venture capital firms, closed down only 19 months after opening.

Last December's acquisition of Soundview for $340 million was his latest attempt to build an institutional business and one his successor, Charles Schwab, wasted no time in overturning. So now what's left of Soundview belongs to UBS which paid $265 million for the parts of Schwab Soundview Capital Markets that it wanted.

And that wasn't much. UBS has no need for more research, whether the technology coverage Soundview was known for, or the financial-political analysis from the Schwab Washington Research Group.

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