There are reports of long telephone wait times and incompetent agents at Vanguard.
Although I haven't needed to contact Vanguard often for assistance, they were helpful when I transferred my Roth IRA in 2019 and the transaction went smoothly. I like their secure messaging option for non-urgent issues which are not time-sensitive and have used it several times. Unfortunately, secure messaging will be phased out for those who are not Flagship clients or don't have accessibility needs.
“'I’m a huge fan of Vanguard,' added financial planner Allan S. Roth, based in Colorado.
However, in March, he wrote a column about how he experienced Vanguard returning hundred-thousand-dollar-plus checks, making mistakes in trust accounts, and messing up the distribution in his mother’s inherited IRA account."
“The issue is when I have something that needs to be done, I can’t get it done at Vanguard, whether settling an estate, moving assets, making a gift.
It’s fine until it’s not.”Link
That is the reason I also use Fidelity which runs very reliably.
Dan Weiner's 'The Independent Adviser for Vanguard Investors' newsletter reported the following issues in the November 2019 issue:
computer "sucked" money from accounts without clients' permission
problems with two-factor authentication
unable to easily wire money from other brokers
email that 1099 tax forms were available sent several months after the fact
A Vanguard insider suggested the broad use of outside contractors may be a large part of the problem. Chairman Tim Buckley stated Vanguard is spending more than $1B on technology.
Is this money being spent wisely?
That sounds about right - the minimum time I've been experiencing. Though to cut it down to that "short" a time, I had to use two tricks.
One trick recommended to me by a Vanguard rep, is to call before 9AM. Of course since Vanguard only starts taking calls at 8AM, everyone trying this gets queued up at the same time.
The other trick is from the article: borrow a Flagship ID. "“I called on the Flagship [elite customer] line, using my mother’s ID to get through to a human being."
And still 20+ minute waits. At least I can do work while I wait.
Borrowing a Flagship ID seems like a good hack to facilitate contact with an actual human being.
Can't do [email protected] with that new apps
Probably need restore old apps until they have the kinks worked out
Re TRP …
- One might attribute the poor customer support to Covid restrictions. I accepted that for nearly a year before recognizing their problems were deeper seated. I’ve tried unsuccessfully to uncover if in recent years perhaps they’ve out-sourced their phone support? I ask because 10-15 years back it was fairly easy to get kicked up to a manager. And usually that resulted in substantive results - be it a direct from the top answer about operations or resolution of some personal beef. But in recent years there seemed no continuity to the phone support operations. As others may have noted, sometimes different reps appear to be working at cross-purpose.
- The “nasties” in customer support seem apart from their outstanding investing capabilities. And their stock price has soared - up about 35% YTD by one report . If you can save $$ on the customer support, that’s extra cash in the pockets of investors in the company.
Vanguard's business problems are people problems.
The last time I tried to make an XFER in, the rep kept directing me to open an online account. When I explained that I do not want to do an online account due to some recent experiences with identity theft, she proceeded to try to open an online account for me -- without really telling me what she was doing. When I figured out what she was doing, I kept asking: "please just send me a PDF form via email or regular mail". She kept saying in response "I can't do that ... and, we're trying to save you money by doing it all online"; to which I replied "I've spent over 45 minutes dealing with Vanguard today, which is taking away from my other work and thereby costing me money".
She kept refusing to help me in the way I was asking, so I finally put it her "...do you understand that I'm trying to transfer money into Vanguard -- I'M TRYING TO GIVE YOU MONEY -- and you are making it hard for me to do business with you....your way of performing this transaction is a disincentive for me doing future business with you".
She finally, finally, finally emailed me a partially filled-out PDF (something that at first she said she couldn't actually do). I never completed the transaction, and have not since transferred any more money over to Vanguard.
I really really loathe working with Vanguard. I have repeatedly directed family members away from investing with them.
I won’t again have anything to do with Vanguard.
I think you would find lower entry pay compared to the likes of Fidelity and Schwab.
For the past two months, Yodlee has not been updating my Schwab account when I log in to Vanguard. It appears to be a 2FA problem. I have sent countless messages to my Flagship representative and Vanguard's Web Technical Services. Ten days ago, I spoke with a Monique Burnett, "Resolution Associate" with Vanguard out of their North Carolina call center.
This past Monday, I sent yet another message to my Flagship Rep. Yesterday, I received the following message from him:
"Thank you for your e-mails.
The Yodlee issues that you are experiencing have been brought to the
attention of our Web Technical Support Team.
Thank you for your patience and understanding.
That message was followed by this one:
"Thank you for your email.
I have tried following up with Yodlee on your Charles Schwab issues. We
have not received an update to this point and understand your frustration.
Unfortunately we are dealing with a 3rd party vendor. This issue cannot be
resolved by Vanguard internally.
I sent a message to our vendor team and asked them to follow up with Yodlee
again. As soon as I hear anything, I promise I will contact you
Again, I apologize for this delay and do appreciate your patience.
Vanguard Web Technical Support Services"
I have left no less than 15 voice messages with Monique Burnett without a return call.
Believe that the same may be true with Vanguard. In much the same way that politicians - via gerrymandering - pick their voters, it would appear that Vanguard is picking its customers through the delivery of poor customer service.
If you have a problem with the provided service levels, please (says Vanguard) take your business elsewhere. (And having done so, if you want to invest in Vanguard ETFs or funds with another broker, even better, since this drives Vanguard's asset levels up with no incremental costs to Vanguard.)
Note: For those unable to access the NYT, below is a link - no paywall, I think - to a similar article that describes how gerrymandering works. If that doesn't work for you, including the wiki entry for gerrymandering.
Finally, there are many different meanings for the word 'service', a few of which are somewhat profane. These are described, quite politely, at this link here. See noun #10, and verb (d).
Politicians Choosing Their Voters, Carter Hanson, 06-22-2020
Since I invest primarily in funds, I don't care about all the bells and whistles, level II quotes, mobile apps, etc. Just something that does the basic the job. I can live with all their restrictions and rules so long as they're clearly spelled out in advance. That way I can know how to work with them and not be surprised. Investors who feel differently can go elsewhere.
But when Vanguard or any institution advertises something, however limited, it should deliver. Vanguard is clear that it does not provide weekend or evening call support. But it also advertises that it does deliver weekday phone support. And it doesn't. Not really if one is on hold for the better part of an hour before getting transferred over to someone else with a similar hold time.
Don't expect that new-to-Vanguard investors that did any sort of due diligence prior to investing with Vanguard will be surprised with Vanguard's current customer 'service' levels.
It is what it is.
Think the issue is more relevant to older investors (like myself), who first invested with Vanguard during era when Mr Bogle was either running the place, and/or alive. We actually remember when there was a there, there.
But that was then, and it is now. Think we have to get over it, and move along. Nothing to see here .... etc.
For example, FWIW, a family member had to do a 401-k rollover, and asked for my advice regarding where the money should go, i.e., which custodian?
I asked them if being able to talk with a person about their investments was important, and how long they wanted to wait for this 'privilege'. Based on answers (Yes and 15 minutes or less), I recommended Fidelity or Schwab. They went with Fidelity.
I faced a similar decision myself several months ago, with respect to an in-service 401-k to IRA rollover. I chose Fidelity, and invested the check that I received in several very low cost ETFs. As it happens, none of them were Vanguard (or Fidelity) ETFs, but they might have been.
Think that Vanguard, by way of John Bogle, created a a revolutionary idea or maybe a public good - like the town common. This was the expectation that investing for the little guy can be incredibly inexpensive and efficient.
While Vanguard is not itself a public company (i.e., for-profit entity with stock that is traded on an exchange and which is owned by stockholders, with officers and board that are accountable to the stockholders), Bogle's revolutionary ideas were copied (and improved?) by other public companies and delivered very efficiently via ETFs and brokerage accounts to the public. (Wonders of capitalism and competition.)
Note: In an effort to compete - and drive their own costs even lower - Vanguard was forced to eliminate new "mutual fund accounts", as opposed to "brokerage fund accounts" for their clients. (There are some exceptions. Understand, for example, that employees of financial firms with restrictions on holding brokerage accounts outside of their employer - for compliance reasons - can open a "mutual fund account" at Vanguard.)
In any event, there is not much reason (really) to invest with Vanguard anymore. Not sure that there is anything that Vanguard can do that Vanguard competitors can not do. (Exception might be very low cost money market funds to act as the "clearing" investment in a brokerage account. But that's about it.)
As long as Vanguard exists in its current form, it is sort of like the Frontier Airlines effect often noted in various cities around the the country. As soon as Frontier makes a city a hub or mini-hub, competitors' ticket prices go down at that location. Once Frontier is operating in your city, you don't need to fly Frontier to get the benefit of lower ticket prices.
Same thing with Vanguard. As long as it is around, it will keep competitors' prices in check. But you don't need to own Vanguard mutual funds or ETFs to get the benefits of its unique low-cost structure. You can (and should?) get them almost anywhere.
PS: Two years ago, Jonathan Clements commented on Vanguard's customer service issues at his "Humble Dollar" website. Titled "Whither Vanguard", it is available here. "Whither Vanguard" was originally posted on this board by the late Ted Didesch. Ted's post is here: https://mutualfundobserver.com/discuss/discussion/51709/jonathan-clements-whither-vanguard
True, except for the Admiral shares of actively-managed funds.
One cannot open a new account in a Vanguard PRIMECAP fund (Primecap, Primcap Core, Capital Opportunity) unless one is a flagship customer at Vanguard. As Vanguard closes other funds it usually (but not always) continues to make the funds available to flagship customers. Only flagship customers at Vanguard can add more than $25K/year to VPCCX.
If you'd like an individual Roth 401k with no fees that has access to Vanguard OEFs, you probably have to do this with Vanguard. (I did something similar with TRP, because at the time it was the only no-fee individual 401k with a Roth option. Vanguard's came later.)
These days, MMFs are completely useless. But before yields dropped to zero, VUSXX (Treasury MMF) was a good competitor to internet banks, especially in a taxable account for people living in high tax states. (Treasuries are state tax exempt.) Like internet banks, it was (is) easy to move cash back and forth.
Almost by definition Vanguard investors are frugal (the politically correct term for "cheap"). That's enough reason to invest directly at Vanguard.
VPCCX (allowing flagship customers to invest unlimited amounts in existing or new accounts): https://personal.vanguard.com/pub/Pdf/sp1220.pdf?2210151473
Anyone, whether flagship customer or not, can initiate a position in VPMAX by converting $50K+ from VPMCX. So an investor with an existing VPMCX account, or a flagship customer opening a new VPMCX account, could add $25K each year to VPMCX for a couple of years. Then, assuming the fund did not lose value, they could convert their shares to VPMAX.