Battling for retirement assets, US discount brokers try 'education'

NEW YORK, March 13 Wed Mar 13, 2013 7:21pm EDT

NEW YORK, March 13 (Reuters) - Worried about having enough to get you through retirement?

E*Trade Financial Corp and TD Ameritrade Holding said on Wednesday they are reaching into their marketing budgets to sponsor what each calls an "Education Day" over the next week.

E*Trade, which has been cutting staff and trimming budgets as it recovers from home-lending losses over the last 5 years, is holding a day-long round of online seminars and in-person forums at some of its offices on Thursday, March 14. Its "Retirement Education Day" runs from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern time, including a 2-1/2 hour "retirement evening" at several of its branches.

TD Ameritrade Holding said investors should bone up on their fixed-income investment questions in preparation for a "Free Investor Education Day" it plans to hold next Tuesday, March 19. The event, which will address issues such as how bonds will perform when interest rates eventually go up, will include a series of webcasts from 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Eastern time.

The retirement seminars include presentations from money managers who sell funds through the firms. Pacific Investment Management Co (PIMCO), the giant West Coast bond manager, is participating in both events.

Brokerage and fund firms for years have stepped up marketing campaigns aimed at promoting tax-deferred retirement investments before income taxes are due on April 15. Advertising and marketing comprise a major part of discount brokerage budgets, even as interest rates and investor interest in trading stocks are low.

E*Trade, the smallest of the three brokers, with the weakest revenue stream, said it is reaching into its depleted marketing budget to sponsor the event. It expects to spend about $110 million this year on marketing and advertising, down from $139.5 million in 2012.

Omaha-based TD Ameritrade spent $248 million in its fiscal 2012 ended on September 30, and forecast spending $220 million to $250 million on advertising and marketing this year.

Charles Schwab Corp, which is based in San Francisco, told investors earlier this year that its 2013 marketing budget will rise from the $241 million it spent in 2012. A spokesman at the San Francisco-based company said the company holds more than 10,000 free branch workshops annually across a range of topics but has no specific nationwide "education day" set in coming weeks.

The brokerage industry is particularly interested in encouraging soon-to-retire employees to roll over their employer-sponsored defined contribution 401(k) plans into personal retirement accounts that the firms can manage after retirement.

TD Ameritrade and E*Trade said their events are free and open to investors of all levels of experience.

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