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Hockey Games: TD Ameritrade alternative data reveals surprising trend

6 months ago by Jon Marino in

TD Ameritrade ($NYSE:AMTD) CEO Tim Hockey is out, in a board spat that leaves the multi-billion dollar money manager without a leader but with shares hovering around all-time highs. 

But, for more than six months, TD Ameritrade's HR department hasn't been acting like a company that is growing. It coincides with TD Ameritrade's years-long stock trajectory losing momentum mid-2018, after more than two years of solid outperformance. Our first chart tracks job postings at TD Ameritrade, which plummeted precipitously as shares outperformed market benchmark the S&P 500 so far this year. 

TD Ameritrade reduced jobs nearly two-thirds from their peak, just over a year ago, to our most recent data point tracking - and, nearly 24% in the most recent full quarter. 

A company seeing stock prices rise for a sustained period - while it actively reduces job postings - is a bit of an anomaly. What's more of anomaly, is seeing it happening at other legacy money managers which TD Ameritrade has competed for years. Charles Schwab ($NYSE:SCHW) - which is reportedly in talks to buy out competitor USAA - has also been scaling back on job postings, even after its shares have made a bull run on public markets. But, Chuck could be scaling back postings in advance of a deal. Either way, Schwab jobs are down 40% in the second quarter alone. 

The lingering question now is: did TD Ameritrade try to cut its way to profitability, or has it, too, been jockeying for a big M&A deal?

In light of the cuts to job postings, it is difficult to understand how legacy players will be able to cut their way to longeivity. Robinhood ($ROBINHOOD), which took in more than $300 million in a new funding round at a $7.6 billion valuation earlier this week, has substantially grown both headcount and increased the number of job postings it maintains online - both likely growth signals - as other Wall Street banks also ramp up consumer-focused offerings. The battle for America's retirement savings is just warming up...

About the Data: 

Thinknum tracks companies using information they post online - jobs, social and web traffic, product sales and app ratings - and creates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales. 

Further Reading: 

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Jon Marino

Jon Marino is Thinknum's finance editor, covering the impacts of alternative data on public companies and investors. Prior to joining Thinknum, Jon worked in the ...

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