The Independent Investor: Brokerage Business Not What It Used to Be
Last week, Charles Schwab, the mega-discount broker, disrupted the brokerage industry yet again by dropping its per-trade commission rates for U.S. and Canadian stocks, exchange traded funds (ETFs), and options for both mobile and internet trades. It was inevitable and simply recognizes what the future holds for that segment of the financial industry.
Since Schwab's announcement on October 1, three additional big brokers — TD Ameritrade, E-Trade and Fidelity Investments — have thrown in the towel leaving only Vanguard (among the big houses) left out of the zero-commission trend.
The stock market reacted in shock. Traders hit the sell button on their computers sending the brokerage stocks down in double-digit losses. E-Trade, for example, fell 17 percent on the announcement. Many pundits predicted the end of the brokerage business, but those forecasts, in my opinion, were based on an antiquated notion of where the brokerage business is actually heading.
The internet and the introduction of smart intelligence has changed financial services forever. Personally, I cannot remember the last time I actually called a broker to place a trade. It is all done through the internet now, so why should I be paying Schwab (or anyone else) $4.95 per trade?
I'm not the only one who must have felt this way. The recent success of upstart retail brokerage businesses such as Robinhood, which promises commission-free trading, social media, cryptocurrencies, etc., was not lost on Charles Schwab. Neither were the offers by more serious competitors like Bank of America's Merrill Lynch and JPMorgan Chase that are offering free trading on a limited basis.
So how can Schwab, or any of the other discount brokers, make money when they aren't charging commissions? The answer is simple. Commissions mean less and less when it comes to the bottom lines of most brokers. Most of us still have an image of a three-piece business suit, tasseled loafers and cufflinks when the word "broker" is mentioned, and I am sure there may still be some of those dinosaurs left out there in some corner office or another.
However, nowadays, it is more likely than not that the markets move too fast to dilly dally on the phone with a broker, or worse still, to waiting on the phone listening to Muzak while the stock skyrockets past you (or is dropping like a rock). Since just about all trading is done electronically, (by people in hoodies and sandals) the costs of executing those trades have dropped too.
Sure, cutting most commissions will hurt the bottom line, but not nearly as much as you think. The way brokers make money today, for the most part, is using the cash in your account until you need it. They invest the money in whatever high-yielding instruments they can find for as long as they can. It is called net interest income and last year Charles Schwab, for example, made 2.6 percent on average from doing so. That may not sound like much, but it amounted to $5.8 billion or 57 percent of the company's total revenue. Investment management and administrative fees accounted for only 32 percent of revenues. Commissions, trading and such accounted for the rest.
Throughout the financial services sector, commissions, fees, and other charges are shrinking as more and more retail and institutional clients demand a better deal. As electronics and automation increasingly become the lion's share of the services provided by the financial industry in the future, investors can expect to see this trend continue.
Pittsfield Man Struck, Killed by Tractor-Trailer
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A local man was killed Monday evening after being struck by a tractor-trailer on Route 8.
Ernest Millette, 73, of Pittsfield was pronounced dead on the scene in the area of 550 Cheshire Road.
At about 7:12 p.m., a 2019 semi-truck operated by Matthew Osak, 34, of Lee, was northbound and turning left into Unistress. Upon making the turn, the vehicle struck Millette, who was walking in the driveway.
Pittsfield Police and Fire, state police, Berkshire County sheriff deputies, and County Ambulance responded to the scene.
The crash remains under investigation by Officer Michael Silver of the Pittsfield Police Department Traffic Unit.
Adams Man Charged With Murder In Columbus Avenue Shooting
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — An Adams man has been charged in the murder of 32-year-old Stephanie Olivieri of Yonkers, N.Y.
Tyler Sumner, 25, was arraigned in Central Berkshire District Court on a single count of murder on Monday.
He is being held at the Berkshire County House of Correction without bail.
Sumner was arrested in Adams on Saturday by Pittsfield Police, with assistance from Adams Police and North Adams Police. The charge is in connection with the Aug. 25 shooting on Columbus Avenue in Pittsfield that killed Olivieri.
Olivieri, a native of Pittsfield, suffered a single gunshot wound while sitting in a silver sedan near the intersection of Columbus and South John Street in the early morning hours that Sunday. Investigators do not believe that Olivieri was the intended target of the shooting.
This investigation has been led by the Pittsfield Police Department with assistance from the state police detectives assigned to the Berkshire District attorney's office and the Berkshire County Crime Task Force.
"I send my heartfelt condolences to the Olivieri family for their tragic loss," District Attorney Andrea Harrington said.
"I am exceedingly proud of this investigation. It has been highly collaborative with excellent leadership from PPD. The tireless efforts of the investigative team in the pursuit of justice for Ms. Olivieri cannot be overstated."
Olivieri attended the former St. Joseph's High and Pittsfield High and left her parents, a brother and two young children. Her family has started a GoFundMe.
Former Williams Student Convicted of Rape
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Former Williams College student Yoonsang Bae has been found guilty of raping a classmate five years ago.
He was convicted on Friday in Berkshire Superior Court by Judge Michael Callan of a single count of rape relating to an on-campus incident in 2014.
The 27-year-old Bae will be sentenced on Friday, Sept. 13.
The victim, who was 19 at the time, testified that after attending an event with Bae, she returned to his room for a drink. She then got sick from the alcohol and Bae placed her in his bed where she passed out. When she awoke, Bae was raping her. He refused to stop despite her protests. The two were both Williams College students at the time.
She reported the rape to New York authorities, contacted the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, and underwent a sexual assault examination at a hospital in New York. Williams College investigated the incident and suspended Bae for two years. The Williamstown Police Department conducted a criminal investigation.
"I want to thank the victim in this case for her strength and courage," District Attorney Andrea Harrington said. "She is a hero for coming forward and sharing her story. My office will not plea rape charges down to lesser offenses when we have victims who wish to go to trial.
"When I took office in January, my first priority was to seek justice for victims by aggressively prosecuting violent crime. This is what being tough on crime should look like."
Bae was indicted on a single count of rape on Aug. 9, 2017. Prosecutors say he had been offered an agreement by the prior administration that would have allowed him to plead to the lesser charge of indecent assault and battery and that the case would have been continued without a finding of guilt. Bae did not accept the plea agreement.
After taking office, Harrington said she did not extend any plea bargains and opted to pursue the rape charge instead, culminating in Firday's guilty verdict.
The case was prosecuted by Stephanie Ilberg.
Pittsfield Police Arrest Man on DUI, Firearms Charges
|The handgun police say they found in the defendant's vehicle.|
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A man allegedly under the influence took officers on a high-speed chase after a Shot Spotter notification early Tuesday morning until crashing through the fence at St. Joseph's Church and hitting a tree.
Domingo Sobers, 28, is being charged with numerous motor vehicle offenses, including driving under the influene, as possessing a firearm without a license and discharging one within 500 feet of a building.
According to a report by Lt. John Soules, officers responded to the Shot Spotter activation at the intersection of Daniels Avenue and Union Street at about 3:29 a.m. Evidence of a shooting was later recovered in that area.
Dispatch reported to responding officers that a Jeep Cherokee may have been involved. While responding to the scene, Officer Michael Lupisella observed a Jeep Cherokee operating one street away from the Shot Spotter location.
The Jeep failed to stop at a stop sign, he said, and he attempted to initiate a traffic stop. The Jeep did not stop but took off at a high rate of speed and ran several stop signs. Police say the driver operated it the wrong way down the one-way portion of Bradford Street.
The vehicle, then travelling eastbound, crossed all lanes of North Street without stopping. It struck the curb on the east side of the street, crashed through the church's iron fence and struck a tree on the church property. The fence and church lawn were damaged. The Jeep's airbags deployed and the vehicle sustained considerable damage.
The operator was the lone occupant of the vehicle. Officers stated that he exhibited signs of being under the influence of alcohol. Ambulance personnel responded to the scene but Sobers declined medical attention. Officers said that when looked inside of his vehicle, they observed a 9mm handgun in plain view within the interior.
As a result of the incident, Sobers was placed under arrest and charged with the following charges. Sobers was to be arraigned in Central Berkshire District Court on the following charges: marked lanes violation, failure to stop at a red light, improper operation of a motor vehicle, operation under the influence of liquor, negligent operation of a motor vehicle, failure to stop for police, possession of firearm without a license and discharge of a firearm within 500 feet of a building.