Charles Schwab (NYSE:SCH) grew its non-trading revenue streams, but it wasn't enough to offset lower trading commissions, as the leading discount broker reported flat first-quarter results on Friday. On a 4% dip in revenue, the company earned $0.11 a share. If not for a series of charges, it would have reported $0.12 a share -- exactly what the company earned a year earlier.

Yes, Schwab is becoming more of a discounter these days. Remember when it decided to sue TD Waterhouse parent Toronto-Dominion Bank (NYSE:TD) last month over taking marketing liberties in comparing Schwab with the high-commission, full-service brokerage houses? This morning's earnings report can be labeled Exhibit A: Schwab's average commission has been shaved by roughly 45% over the past year.

Yet that is why Schwab's seemingly bland report is actually pretty impressive. Coming in with flattish growth under that kind of environment bears a closer look. Just as amazing is that Schwab's pretax profit margins rose despite the cutthroat commission schedule.

Sure, the leading discount brokers like E*Trade (NYSE:ET) and Ameritrade (NASDAQ:AMTD) have been busy cutting rates lately, but that doesn't mean that the story has to end badly. Companies are discovering new ways to grow their business. For Schwab, that has meant things like promoting its advised investing programs while launching new mutual funds.

The company closed out the period by growing client assets to $1.077 trillion, an 8% improvement over the past year. With lower commissions and reduced or eradicated account fees, clients now have fewer reasons to wander over to the competition.

That doesn't mean you need to stay put, of course. Our Broker Center includes a discount broker table where you can compare the account minimums and commission rates from our participating sponsors. Still, I like what I see in this morning's report. Schwab has had a rough couple of years. Its stock is trading at a third of where it was five years ago. Yet it seems to be doing the necessary things to keep churn in check while finding ways to improve its operating efficiency. Now would be a good time to take a closer look at Schwab.

Charles Schwab is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation.

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has been investing through online discount brokers since 1991. He likes the sector's chances, but he does not own shares in any companies mentioned in this story. The Fool has a disclosure policy. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.