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Schwab founder met with China officials about Shanghai office

By Jed Horowitz

NEW YORK, Dec 9 (Reuters) - Charles Schwab traveled to China in September to discuss opening an office of his eponymous securities firm in Shanghai.

"There's a massive opportunity there, they are very underserved," the 76-year-old founder of Charles Schwab Corp said in a meeting Monday with Reuters reporters and editors.

Schwab, who founded his pioneering discount brokerage firm in 1971, said he met with the head of the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) and with the head of its intelligence service to learn more about the Shanghai Free Trade Zone that it is being organized for foreign banks.

Schwab compared the status of the Chinese retail investor to that of U.S. citizens in the 1950s who were largely ignorant of the market and ignored by big brokerage firms.

It will take 15 or 20 years before China truly develops a market for retail investors, Schwab said, but he wants his firm to be on the ground floor.

"The next step is to open an office in the new free trade zone in Shanghai," he said. "The rules and regulations are not completely clear."

Schwab, which has closed several European ventures, put a foot into Asia when it opened an office in Hong Kong in 1997. It remains open and is used by some mainland Chinese customers for investing in U.S. stocks.