Vanguard’s website won’t allow customers to download statements. Some checks may also be delayed.
Vanguard is experiencing a partial website outage, now lasting about six days, which has kept some clients from accessing certain account information and driving some loyal customers to post public complaints online.
Customers of the $8 trillion mutual fund giant complained that the firm’s website wasn’t functioning fully on social media sites such as Vanguard Group’s official Twitter account and Vanguard devotee website Bogleheads.org. The disgruntled clients questioned whether Vanguard’s website would be fully operational by year’s end in time to check account balances and calculate distributions.
Friday, Dec. 31, is the last day to trade, and when year-end balances will be calculated.
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Vanguard officials apologized for the spotty online access and said that the issues may also extend to delay mailed correspondence. In a statement, Vanguard tied the issues to a third-party vendor. “Vanguard has been made aware of a service interruption involving a third-party mailing and check processing vendor. Vanguard clients and retirement plan participants may experience delayed mailings or be unable to access certain statements, confirmations, or forms via our website. While our teams are actively working toward a resolution, Vanguard is taking steps to minimize disruptions for clients such as working with our other vendors,” the company said in the e-mailed statement. “Our teams have been working on this issue around-the-clock and our client service representatives are available to help clients who require immediate assistance.” The company didn’t estimate when the service interruptions would be corrected or exactly when the outage started and declined to identify the third-party vendor.
Some Vanguard customers said problems started last week. Clients made trades but have been unable to view confirmations, while others seeking monthly statements couldn’t download the information or received an error message.
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A message on Bogleheads.org, posted Dec. 23 by a person claiming to be a Vanguard customer and using the online handle Mike323 said they were “unable to download trade confirmations all day” and could not access monthly statements that were needed for a bank loan. “Tech support has not been able to solve the problem. Several of them have said there is a problem in the Vanguard system,” the online commentator added.
Employees inside the company, including one who asked not to be identified because of the nature of the problem, said that in recent months customer service at the company has come under fire.
“Clients are unable to open accounts online, they are told to contact us by phone. Also the excessive hold time is an issue. Clients are unable to access confirmations and statements online. And now the delay with redemption checks going out. Clearly our technology has failed,” said the employee.
“Christmas has brought yet another outage” said Dan Wiener, editor of the Independent Adviser for Vanguard Investors newsletter, which tracks the performance of Vanguard funds. “Phone services are overwhelmed. If you call the main number, 877-662-7447 you’re met with a recorded message from CEO Tim Buckley who says, in part, ‘We are receiving an exceptionally high number of calls right now.’ No live person ever answered my call.”
The firm still ranks at the top of surveys by J.D. Power and others, yet complaints about Vanguard’s customer service have grown anecdotally.
In part that may be due to Vanguard and many of its peers being slammed with new clients. But Vanguard also has led the race in cutting costs for clients’ funds. Vanguard added to the customer service issues in August when it phased out secure messaging on its website for clients under $1 million in assets.
In March, financial adviser Allan Roth wrote a column about how he experienced Vanguard mistakenly returning a hundred-thousand-dollar-plus check, making errors in trust accounts, and messing up the distribution in his mother’s inherited IRA account.