Chuck Schwab Mulls Company’s Leaving Costly San Francisco

Financial giant’s founder, apparently not serious, joins locals in kvetching about city’s high prices.

A lot of San Franciscans complain about how costly their city is nowadays. And they have culprits: the well-paid techies who work at places like Google and Facebook, and are pumping up the prices for everything from housing to restaurant meals.

Add Chuck Schwab to that list of grousers. In fact, the founder of his eponymous asset management firm suggested in a recent interview that it could exit the ever-more-expensive city by the bay. “We’re pretty much a national company now,” he told the San Francisco Business Times last month.

“I’m not sure” the company will remain there, Charles R. Schwab, 81, went on. “We’ll continue looking at that as a possibility … the costs of doing business here are so much higher than in some other place.” Schwab, the chairman of Charles Schwab & Co., didn’t seem to be serious, but his bitching is a prominent example of how a lot of longtime residents feel.

What does the company say about the notion of leaving? We’re staying put, the money management powerhouse said in a statement: “Schwab continues to have its headquarters based in San Francisco and a change isn’t currently under consideration.”

The steady escalation of housing and other costs in San Francisco has gotten a lot of non-tech residents in a lather. Buses that ferry city-dwelling employees at Apple, Google, and the like last year were pelted by unidentified projectiles, which police speculated could be BB pellets or rocks. Many of the tech workers live in the city and commute to Silicon Valley.

Sure enough, the San Francisco metropolitan area is the most expensive in the nation, according to the US Bureau of Economic Analysis. Second-most costly is the San Jose region, namely Silicon Valley, south of San Francisco. Among the top 10, the rest are near San Fran, except for Honolulu (No. 4), New York (No. 7), Fairfield County, Connecticut. (No. 9), and Washington D.C. (No. 10).

Chuck Schwab founded the firm in 1971, and for a time it had a sort of outlaw status as a discount broker, charging less than traditional money managers. These days it is one of the biggest financial companies in the nation. While it has opened operations elsewhere, to save on expenses, Schwab has in the past confirmed its commitment to its original headquarters city.

When Schwab launched the business four decades ago, San Francisco was much cheaper, which in addition to its charm, made it a haven for hippies. The hippies are mostly gone and so is the city’s affordability. But at least Schwab is staying, for the foreseeable future.

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