This is the story of Charles Schwab and the brokerage he founded. The brokerage rode two waves to success. The first was a series of technical innovations:
We were the first in our industry to build a network that allowed clients to walk into any Schwab office or call any Schwab broker and place an order that in turn was entered directly into our company-wide network….
[W]e had a history — a culture of innovation — that helped prepare use for the internet. We also had a solid, leading-edge IT platform already in place. (p. 217)
The second, and probably the more important, wave was a series of regulatory changes. This began with SEC deregulation of stock sales in 1975 (p. 8), known as “May Day” (p. 47). Subsequent changes included the expanded eligibility requirements for IRAs in 1982 (p. 111-2, 207-8), and the rise of 401(k) plans and associated rollovers (223, 294).
Combining these two waves allowed Schwab to operate at lower cost, for more customers. this led to the reduction — and in many cases, complete elimination — of fees that had long been the bread-and-butter of the brokerage industry.
Throughout the book, Schwab shows an awareness of how his own personality and drive contributed to professional success, sometimes at the cost of his personal life. This is most apparent when discussing his role as a father and his divorce from his first wife:
[M]ore than anything, I think our marriage was a victim of my entrepreneurial drive and ambition. I loved working, and I’m sure I pushed everything in my life to the back burner. Easy to see in hindsight, but not as clear to me at the time. (p. 42)