Customer Service with Vanguard

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LilyFleur
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Customer Service with Vanguard

Post by LilyFleur » Sat Mar 31, 2018 1:43 am

I had decided to go with Vanguard to open up an Inherited IRA, and then I saw this article in the Wall Street Journal (see excerpt below):

Is Vanguard’s Success a Problem? Some Customers Think So
$5 trillion money manager’s pristine rep is taking a hit as it deals with technical snafus, other customer-service issues

March 29, 2018 8:00 a.m. ET
"Louise Robbins bought shares in an exchange-traded fund last Friday afternoon as markets fell, knowing that she had enough money in her Vanguard Group settlement fund to pay for the trade.

Tuesday morning, the 60-year-old Boston book editor received an erroneous email saying her settlement account didn’t have sufficient funds to pay for the transaction. A Vanguard spokesman confirmed that other retail clients received similar messages and the problem would be resolved without customers having to take any action.

The recent settlement fund snafu is part of a larger perception problem facing the $5.1 trillion money manager: customers say Vanguard’s size and record inflows are increasingly putting strains on an enterprise known for its devoted customer following and low costs.

Vanguard is one of the biggest beneficiaries of an investor shift over the last decade to cheaper, passively managed investment products that track the performance of indexes. It pulled in a record $369.3 billion in new investor money in 2017, or the equivalent of more than $1 billion a day. It has long had a nearly pristine reputation among customers attracted to the firm’s principles of low-cost, long-term investing.

Vanguard doesn’t operate physical branches, meaning more than 20 million customers interact with the company online or by phone. Over the past year some of these customers have complained via Twitter , investment discussion forums and interviews with The Wall Street Journal of technical problems, administrative foibles and service across Vanguard’s brokerage and retirement businesses.

... Issues flagged by Vanguard customers include incorrect cost basis information—what investors paid for shares in a fund—shown on their accounts, and problems with required minimum distributions for retirees, incorrect account balances displayed online, long customer service wait times and login troubles. Some of the problems identified by customers have the potential to trigger tax consequences for investors."

So I am reaching out for feedback--should I investigate Schwab instead? If you have a Vanguard account, have you been happy with customer service recently?

Thanks!

MPLSTCH
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Re: Customer Service with Vanguard

Post by MPLSTCH » Sat Mar 31, 2018 7:29 am

I am interested in the response you get. Later this year I will be rolling over a 401K to one of the big three. Since my 401K holdings are in several Vanguard funds, my lean has been towards them. I am concerned over the same issues you have brought up. Glad you put it out there.

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dwickenh
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Re: Customer Service with Vanguard

Post by dwickenh » Sat Mar 31, 2018 7:34 am

There are numerous threads on this if you use the search engine. My take is that I rolled my 401K to Vanguard in 2016. I have a taxable account and 2 Roths with them also. I have never had a service problem in the 2 years of services provided. I am low maintenance compared to some investors and that is not meant to be a knock on some, just the difference between my needs and theirs. I always get through on the phone and get the answers I need, but most of my service is done on-line or through secure e-mails. I think you will do fine with Schwab, Fidelity, or Vanguard.
The market is the most efficient mechanism anywhere in the world for transferring wealth from impatient people to patient people.” | — Warren Buffett

Freefun
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Re: Customer Service with Vanguard

Post by Freefun » Sat Mar 31, 2018 7:36 am

You might be referring to the article in this thread

viewtopic.php?t=245588
Remember when you wanted what you currently have?

PoundCake
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Re: Customer Service with Vanguard

Post by PoundCake » Sat Mar 31, 2018 7:55 am

I think you'll find many posts on this forum addressing this issue. Some people have experienced problems, some not.

I've used Vanguard for ~20 years and never had a problem until I had to settle my mother's estate. Then, the problems began. Vanguard reps made patently incorrect statements and sometimes contradictory statements. They sent incorrect forms, multiple times. Vanguard screwed up the division of one account, an error that took some time to sort out. It was also an error that was caught because my sibling and I communicate a lot. If we didn't communicate -- as often happens when a parent dies -- the error never would have come to light, and we siblings would have received vastly different amounts of money.

In terms of estate issues, Vanguard doesn't make it easy, as it has two separate units (retail and life events) that don't communicate and seem to work from different scripts. The last time I spoke with my flagship rep, just as I was closing the estate, I thanked him for all of the help he had provided, and he replied that he would always be my "advocate" within Vanguard. (I'm paraphrasing, but he used the word, "advocate.") That struck me, as I don't think I should need an advocate when I'm a customer.

After that go around, I moved some money to Fidelity, which had been recommended to me by many people. And Fidelity is okay too, just as Vanguard was okay until I needed to interact with them constantly for ~10 months. I am beginning to wonder if that's just the way these things go. My overall impression with estate handling is that no one wants to hand over money, even when it clearly should be handed over. Every company I dealt with (bank, life insurance company, etc.) made it significantly more difficult than it needed to be.

You mention that you are considering an inherited IRA with Vanguard. I have one, and have not had any issues. It was just a little hellish getting the account established.

GmanJeff
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Re: Customer Service with Vanguard

Post by GmanJeff » Sat Mar 31, 2018 8:00 am

I have had VG accounts for a while and am now a PAS client. I have always been satisfied with the service and value received. Keep in mind that any enterprise will have occasional glitches, but that VG's remarkable growth in recent years reflects overall customer satisfaction rather than unhappiness.

goshenBogle
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Re: Customer Service with Vanguard

Post by goshenBogle » Sat Mar 31, 2018 8:06 am

I am a VG Flagship client and have been with VG for over 25 years. Over the last 3-4 years there has been a noticeable decrease in the quality of their customer service. Last year I had a long talk with the manager of VG customer service who promised to improve their service. This has not happened. SO what type of problems have I had?
- errors in statements that take way too long to fix
- customer service reps providing incorrect information
- VG personal advosir service more intent on selling VG funds then provieding quality advice
- not receiving requested VG material & having to ask multiple times for the same material

None of this means that I will move my funds out of VG. But it does warrant watching. As VG grows it seems that service to customers seems to be lacking.
Retired and loving it!!!!

dbr
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Re: Customer Service with Vanguard

Post by dbr » Sat Mar 31, 2018 8:11 am

List of other threads on this topic: https://www.google.com/search?sitesearc ... er+service

skeptical1
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Re: Customer Service with Vanguard

Post by skeptical1 » Sat Mar 31, 2018 10:51 am

I am a 20+ year VG customer that has been totally satisfied until the last couple of years. I appreciate the business model, low costs, and fund offerings; however, I have become annoyed by web and tech issues. I've gotten so frustrated, I'm currently in the process of moving our four IRAs from VG to Schwab. Short term, I will leave our IRAs invested in VG funds. I intend to leave my taxable portfolio with VG for the time being. Limited experience with Schwab to date but I'm pleased with the 24/7 support and the web experience is far superior. I'm still a VG fan but it needs to make investments in the customer support and technology areas.

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ruralavalon
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Re: Customer Service with Vanguard

Post by ruralavalon » Sat Mar 31, 2018 2:08 pm

LilyFleur wrote:
Sat Mar 31, 2018 1:43 am
I had decided to go with Vanguard to open up an Inherited IRA, and then I saw this article in the Wall Street Journal (see excerpt below):

Is Vanguard’s Success a Problem? Some Customers Think So
$5 trillion money manager’s pristine rep is taking a hit as it deals with technical snafus, other customer-service issues

March 29, 2018 8:00 a.m. ET
"Louise Robbins bought shares in an exchange-traded fund last Friday afternoon as markets fell, knowing that she had enough money in her Vanguard Group settlement fund to pay for the trade.

Tuesday morning, the 60-year-old Boston book editor received an erroneous email saying her settlement account didn’t have sufficient funds to pay for the transaction. A Vanguard spokesman confirmed that other retail clients received similar messages and the problem would be resolved without customers having to take any action.

The recent settlement fund snafu is part of a larger perception problem facing the $5.1 trillion money manager: customers say Vanguard’s size and record inflows are increasingly putting strains on an enterprise known for its devoted customer following and low costs.

Vanguard is one of the biggest beneficiaries of an investor shift over the last decade to cheaper, passively managed investment products that track the performance of indexes. It pulled in a record $369.3 billion in new investor money in 2017, or the equivalent of more than $1 billion a day. It has long had a nearly pristine reputation among customers attracted to the firm’s principles of low-cost, long-term investing.

Vanguard doesn’t operate physical branches, meaning more than 20 million customers interact with the company online or by phone. Over the past year some of these customers have complained via Twitter , investment discussion forums and interviews with The Wall Street Journal of technical problems, administrative foibles and service across Vanguard’s brokerage and retirement businesses.

... Issues flagged by Vanguard customers include incorrect cost basis information—what investors paid for shares in a fund—shown on their accounts, and problems with required minimum distributions for retirees, incorrect account balances displayed online, long customer service wait times and login troubles. Some of the problems identified by customers have the potential to trigger tax consequences for investors."

So I am reaching out for feedback--should I investigate Schwab instead? If you have a Vanguard account, have you been happy with customer service recently?

Thanks!
All of our accounts are at Vanguard, and all of our investments are Vanguard index funds. We have four accounts with Vanguard -- a joint taxable account, two Roth IRAs, and my rollover IRA. We have been with Vanguard since 2005.

My personal experience with Vanguard customer service has always (even recently) been excellent. The service has always been prompt, courteous, knowledgeable and professional.

I like the Vanguard website and app.

I plan to stay with Vanguard. I know others have recently complained of issues with Vanguard, I feel confident that these issues will be corrected in the near future. I think the issues probably have been largely the result of the huge influx of new customers, and Vanguard has recently added 1400 are customer service employees, as was noted in the WSJ article,

If I wanted to move our accounts I would first consider Fidelity rather than Schwab.

Schwab does not have a total international stock index fund. Schwab's index fund menu is more limited than either Vanguard or Fidelity. Schwab doesn't offer a small cap value index fund, doesn't have many bond index funds, and offers little in the way of tax-exempt bond funds. That said, you can build a good mutual fund portfolio using what Schwab does offer.
Last edited by ruralavalon on Sat Mar 31, 2018 2:20 pm, edited 3 times in total.
"Everything should be as simple as it is, but not simpler." - Albert Einstein | Wiki article link:Getting Started

dbr
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Re: Customer Service with Vanguard

Post by dbr » Sat Mar 31, 2018 2:15 pm

ruralavalon wrote:
Sat Mar 31, 2018 2:08 pm

Schwab does not have a total international stock index fund. Schwab's index fund menu is more limited than either Vanguard or Fidelity. Schwab doesn't offer a small cap value index fund, doesn't have many bond index funds, and offers little in the way of tax-exempt bond funds. That said, you can build a good mutual fund portfolio using what Schwab does offer.
I think in many cases the idea is hold Vanguard funds or ETFs at a different broker. That is what I do.

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ruralavalon
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Re: Customer Service with Vanguard

Post by ruralavalon » Sat Mar 31, 2018 2:24 pm

dbr wrote:
Sat Mar 31, 2018 2:15 pm
ruralavalon wrote:
Sat Mar 31, 2018 2:08 pm

Schwab does not have a total international stock index fund. Schwab's index fund menu is more limited than either Vanguard or Fidelity. Schwab doesn't offer a small cap value index fund, doesn't have many bond index funds, and offers little in the way of tax-exempt bond funds. That said, you can build a good mutual fund portfolio using what Schwab does offer.
I think in many cases the idea is hold Vanguard funds or ETFs at a different broker. That is what I do.
True.

I was simply suggesting Fidelity rather than Schwab if OP wants to move away from from Vanguard.
"Everything should be as simple as it is, but not simpler." - Albert Einstein | Wiki article link:Getting Started

TropikThunder
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Re: Customer Service with Vanguard

Post by TropikThunder » Sat Mar 31, 2018 7:44 pm

LilyFleur wrote:
Sat Mar 31, 2018 1:43 am
I had decided to go with Vanguard to open up an Inherited IRA, and then I saw this article in the Wall Street Journal (see excerpt below):

Is Vanguard’s Success a Problem? Some Customers Think So
"Louise Robbins bought shares in an exchange-traded fund last Friday afternoon as markets fell, knowing that she had enough money in her Vanguard Group settlement fund to pay for the trade.

Tuesday morning, the 60-year-old Boston book editor received an erroneous email saying her settlement account didn’t have sufficient funds to pay for the transaction. A Vanguard spokesman confirmed that other retail clients received similar messages and the problem would be resolved without customers having to take any action.
That's a really deceptive anecdote (deceptive on the WSJ writer's part, not on OP's part). She bought shares, got an email saying her settlement account had insufficient funds, but didn't have to do anything and the trade went through. Yes, the settlement fund glitch was irritating, but hardly a crisis and I haven't heard of anyone who actually had to take any action. Is this really the best example the author had of a "problem"?

michaelc
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Re: Customer Service with Vanguard

Post by michaelc » Sat Mar 31, 2018 8:21 pm

To the person who stated Schwab does not offer a total international stock index fund. That's incorrect. They do and its SWISX.

sschoe2
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Re: Customer Service with Vanguard

Post by sschoe2 » Sat Mar 31, 2018 8:24 pm

I have a roth and taxable with Vanguard but have had little to no contact with their customer service so I can't comment. I am a pretty low maintenance customer. I will be moving an inherited IRA to Vanguard soon so I will need their help with that.

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BolderBoy
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Re: Customer Service with Vanguard

Post by BolderBoy » Sat Mar 31, 2018 10:38 pm

PoundCake wrote:
Sat Mar 31, 2018 7:55 am
I think you'll find many posts on this forum addressing this issue. Some people have experienced problems, some not.

I've used Vanguard for ~20 years and never had a problem until I had to settle my mother's estate. Then, the problems began.
... and to balance out your experience, I've been with VG for almost 30 years. Last year I had to settle my mother's estate and transferring her VG account to me and my sibling (not a VG customer) was smooth as glass with nary a glitch and was done in 1 week.
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msi
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Re: Customer Service with Vanguard

Post by msi » Sun Apr 01, 2018 12:40 am

michaelc wrote:
Sat Mar 31, 2018 8:21 pm
To the person who stated Schwab does not offer a total international stock index fund. That's incorrect. They do and its SWISX.
Yeah, but SWISX is just the EAFE. No emerging, no small caps, and no Canada. Contrast that with the total international funds at Vanguard and Fidelity, which do have them.

mega317
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Re: Customer Service with Vanguard

Post by mega317 » Sun Apr 01, 2018 12:57 am

This analogy is a stretch at best, but you won't find it on any of those other 5200 threads:
We recently bought a vibrating mat to help the baby sleep, and lo, it seems to have worked! And after literally 2 days it broke. I could have taken pains before the purchase to find a store that does not have poor parking and long exchange lines, and where the employee won't be looking for batteries to verify my issue 15 minutes before tipoff of the Final Four game, or I could just deal with those things once in a rare while (possible customer service issues), in order to get the thing I actually want (replacement vibrating mat now (not shipped)/access to Vanguard Admiral mutual funds).

MrPotatoHead
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Re: Customer Service with Vanguard

Post by MrPotatoHead » Sun Apr 01, 2018 2:40 am

I am so disgusted with Vanguard's customer service that I decided to limit my interactions with these (insert colorful derogatory phrase of your choice). To that end I stopped adding funds at Vanguard about a decade ago with the intention of just keeping it there (only because it is taxable) and letting my estate liquidate it at my death. In other words my plan has been to ignore them and only interact with them on my children's behalf, in order to manage their 401K plans, which sadly are administered by Vanguard.

But as they say., the best laid plans of mice and men...

So I get this disturbing e-mail from Vaguard (in part below and

edited for privacy)

Dear X,

Over the past few years, we've made some improvements to our investment platform. As a result of these improvements, we'll be retiring our old investment platform—which is what you're using today—and asking all our clients to transition to the new one.

We'd make the transition for you, but we can't unfortunately (regulatory reasons). Complete it today!

It's quick and easy
Just go to vanguard.com, log on, and then simply follow our quick, 3-step process to complete the transition. There are no additional fees or tax consequences to make the move. While you're there, you can also:
• Get more details on why we're asking you to do this.
• Explore the similarities and differences.
• Understand how it will affect you.

A little more background
Having all our clients transition will help simplify things—for you and for us. It will enable us to lower our operating expenses and give us more money to invest in the new platform. And that translates to an even better investment experience for you.

Thank you for making the transition.


So we can plainly see, Vanguard decides to do something that forces you to take action. This is an inconvenience to the customer. Let me see, I have been with Fidelity since, 1981 and they have never once asked me to do something, not has any of the other dozen plus financial service companies I deal with, but Vanguard...sheesh. Vanguard is dead last in terms of customer service of any company I have ever dealt with in regard to financial matters. I have said it before and i'll say it again, Vanguard will likely never have good customer service. They are a fourth rate firm in regard to customer service and the issue is endemic to Vanguard's less is more culture. They may make some incremental inroads now and again but their problem at Vanguard is structural in nature. E-mails like the one above emphasize he point. Vanguard is not customer service oriented.
Last edited by MrPotatoHead on Sun Apr 01, 2018 3:16 am, edited 1 time in total.

jminv
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Re: Customer Service with Vanguard

Post by jminv » Sun Apr 01, 2018 3:08 am

I think it's sad that Vanguard is having trouble competing on service and reliability (cost basis accuracy, etc). I started using Schwab a few years back, in part, because of the superior customer service. Vanguard needs to invest more in IT and training, improve their platform, and become more customer centric. That's sad to say because they should be the leader in at least the last aspect.

jminv
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Re: Customer Service with Vanguard

Post by jminv » Sun Apr 01, 2018 3:12 am

msi wrote:
Sun Apr 01, 2018 12:40 am
michaelc wrote:
Sat Mar 31, 2018 8:21 pm
To the person who stated Schwab does not offer a total international stock index fund. That's incorrect. They do and its SWISX.
Yeah, but SWISX is just the EAFE. No emerging, no small caps, and no Canada. Contrast that with the total international funds at Vanguard and Fidelity, which do have them.
Luckily, you can still trade Vanguard's total market index fund through Schwab account while avoiding the issues mentioned in the wsj article.

sport
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Re: Customer Service with Vanguard

Post by sport » Sun Apr 01, 2018 4:14 am

I have been a satisfied customer of Vanguard for 38 years. DW and I have two taxable accounts, two traditional IRAs and two Roth IRAs. I have transferred two different 401K accounts to my traditional IRA. I have never experienced any problems with any of our accounts.

Money Market
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Re: Customer Service with Vanguard

Post by Money Market » Sun Apr 01, 2018 5:20 am

PoundCake wrote:
Sat Mar 31, 2018 7:55 am

I've used Vanguard for ~20 years and never had a problem until I had to settle my mother's estate. Then, the problems began. Vanguard reps made patently incorrect statements and sometimes contradictory statements. They sent incorrect forms, multiple times. Vanguard screwed up the division of one account, an error that took some time to sort out. It was also an error that was caught because my sibling and I communicate a lot. If we didn't communicate -- as often happens when a parent dies -- the error never would have come to light, and we siblings would have received vastly different amounts of money.
Did your mother's account have explicit beneficiaries set to both you and your sibling? I thought it would be as simple as VG contacting you to rollover the account into your own.

Money Market
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Re: Customer Service with Vanguard

Post by Money Market » Sun Apr 01, 2018 5:21 am

BolderBoy wrote:
Sat Mar 31, 2018 10:38 pm
PoundCake wrote:
Sat Mar 31, 2018 7:55 am
I think you'll find many posts on this forum addressing this issue. Some people have experienced problems, some not.

I've used Vanguard for ~20 years and never had a problem until I had to settle my mother's estate. Then, the problems began.
... and to balance out your experience, I've been with VG for almost 30 years. Last year I had to settle my mother's estate and transferring her VG account to me and my sibling (not a VG customer) was smooth as glass with nary a glitch and was done in 1 week.
For her account, did she just set the beneficiaries and VG just rolled over her accounts to you and your sibling's?

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fandango
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Re: Customer Service with Vanguard

Post by fandango » Sun Apr 01, 2018 5:28 am

I have been a Vanguard customer for 30+ years and have never had a problem with customer service.

I have worked with other mutual fund companies (Fidelity, Pimco, etc.) and have not found the customer service to equal Vanguard.

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burt
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Re: Customer Service with Vanguard

Post by burt » Sun Apr 01, 2018 5:35 am

I've been a satisfied Vanguard customer for 20+ years. Over this period of time I have done 401k rollovers, agent authorization for my Mothers accounts, and transferred my Mothers assets to Vanguard. More recently I have helped siblings with inherited Vanguard funds and helping them to move funds to Vanguard. Sibling doesn't use a computer so this is more work with manual forms and phone calls.... still no problems. I try to avoid phone calls if at all possible, but if I do need to make a call (helping sibling without computer), I make very detailed notes with steps prior to the call, because 50% of successful communication is on my end.

burt

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Munir
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Re: Customer Service with Vanguard

Post by Munir » Sun Apr 01, 2018 6:17 am

I have been with Vanguard for over 30 years and will stay with it till I die. There will always be some people who have legitimate problems with any organization and some people who are chronic complainers and never happy. It would be informative to see some hard data instead of just anecdotal complaints. Moreover, the number of complainers has to be considered as a percentage of the total number of clients and compare that to Fidelity, Schwab, etc. We don't have any such numbers. The WSJ article used social media comments as a source of information! Remember that Vanguard is the largest organization in the field for some reason- if it was a poor performer in customer relations, it would be losing customers and assets instead of showing this remarkable growth.

PoundCake
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Re: Customer Service with Vanguard

Post by PoundCake » Sun Apr 01, 2018 7:31 am

Money Market wrote:
Sun Apr 01, 2018 5:21 am
BolderBoy wrote:
Sat Mar 31, 2018 10:38 pm
PoundCake wrote:
Sat Mar 31, 2018 7:55 am
I think you'll find many posts on this forum addressing this issue. Some people have experienced problems, some not.

I've used Vanguard for ~20 years and never had a problem until I had to settle my mother's estate. Then, the problems began.
... and to balance out your experience, I've been with VG for almost 30 years. Last year I had to settle my mother's estate and transferring her VG account to me and my sibling (not a VG customer) was smooth as glass with nary a glitch and was done in 1 week.
For her account, did she just set the beneficiaries and VG just rolled over her accounts to you and your sibling's?
All 3 siblings were identified as beneficiaries on this IRA, and so one would think it would be easy to divide into thirds. It wasn't. Here's what happened:

After my sibs set up Vanguard accounts (relatively easy), I submitted forms for the 3 of us. These forms required a notarized signature, which was a little difficult, as 1 sib lives outside of the US and cannot get a notarized signature without visiting the embassy. (Not Vanguard's fault, but just a fact to be dealt with.) A couple weeks later, Vanguard told me that we submitted the wrong forms. Well, we only used the forms we used because those were the ones the life events representative at Vanguard told to use. So we repeated the process.

In parallel and as PR for the estate, I repeatedly asked Vanguard for a full accounting of my mother's assets. I had information from shortly before her death, but at this point, several months had gone by, and I wanted an update. I provided full documentation of my mother's death, documents showing that I was PR, etc. Vanguard's response varied from (1) telling me that they had no record that she was deceased and I was PR to (2) telling me that they did have adequate documentation but that I wasn't entitled to that information. In terms of #1, I provided complete documentation 4 separate times. In terms of #2, Vanguard refused me for about 6 months, which meant that I was in the dark about account totals during the process of dividing my mother's IRA.

Back to the division of the IRA.... about a month after the second set of forms was submitted, I was able to see that my inherited IRA had been established, the funds, and the shares in each fund. And, while I didn't know the exact balance of the larger account because Vanguard refused to tell me (see above), I had a basic idea, and what I received seemed about right. I took a snapshot of the holdings and sent it to my siblings and asked them to compare my account with theirs, once their accounts were established.

Next, my sister had her account set up. Since a little time passed since my account was created, most of the funds weren't exactly the same as mine, but were pretty close. However, some were off by a lot. We then discovered that for many of the funds, Vanguard gave my sister 1/3 of the whole. But for other funds, she had received 1/3 of what remained after my 1/3 had been given to me. That is, my sister received 1/3 or the remaining 2/3. This took several calls to clear up because Vanguard at first denied that there was any issue, claiming instead that the discrepancies in share balances were due to market fluctuations. No, it was a math error.

My brother's account was set up later. As part of that, Vanguard told him that he had to sell his shares in a certain fund because he is not a US resident and cannot hold shares in that fund. Later, when I distributed some of the probate assets -- some of which were also in this fund -- Vanguard didn't require him to sell the shares. Which statement is correct? I don't know. And finally, there's this: when Vanguard finally agreed that, as PR, I was entitled to date-of-death values for all of my mother's accounts, they sent the information to my sister, who then passed it onto me. But that was another huge error on Vanguard's part.

That's the story of the non-probate assets. I had a slightly easier time with the probate assets -- mostly because they were placed in an estate account I could access/view -- but had a few glitches there as well.

Mistakes can happen and I understand that. Vanguard sent us the wrong forms. Oh well. But my experience with Vanguard and this estate involved far more than a few simple mistakes. I am disturbed by the fact that Vanguard's basic math error was only caught by my sister and I, and only because we were comparing detailed notes along the way. If we hadn't been doing this, she would have been out a lot of money. I still can't believe Vanguard refused me date-of-death values, then relented, and then sent the information to the wrong person. (For some estates, that could have caused very big problems. Luckily, it didn't here.) Finally, I'm bothered by the fact that straightening out all of these glitches -- and there were others -- took a lot of persistence on my part. I'm a lawyer: I know how to make a record and I have a very strong voice. But it shouldn't be that difficult.

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munemaker
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Re: Customer Service with Vanguard

Post by munemaker » Sun Apr 01, 2018 10:07 am

Last night (Saturday) I noticed a low 6-digit error (in my favor) in my Vanguard account (when viewing the account online). The error occurred in early March, so over 3 weeks have passed without it being detected and corrected. I am 100% sure this is an error. The monthly statements came out overnight and the error carried through on the monthly statement. Sorry to be so cryptic. I don't want to give any details here because it would be personally identifiable information for Vanguard employees who may review this site (meaning they could tie my user name to my Vanguard account).

I never review my statements in detail and caught this only due to the magnitude; it jumped right out at me.

I only mention this to caution others to review your statements carefully. This is unsettling to me and for the first time I am concerned about the integrity of Vanguard's internal controls.

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Re: Customer Service with Vanguard

Post by ruralavalon » Sun Apr 01, 2018 10:42 am

+ruralavalon" wrote:If I wanted to move our accounts I would first consider Fidelity rather than Schwab.

Schwab does not have a total international stock index fund. Schwab's index fund menu is more limited than either Vanguard or Fidelity. Schwab doesn't offer a small cap value index fund, doesn't have many bond index funds, and offers little in the way of tax-exempt bond funds. That said, you can build a good mutual fund portfolio using what Schwab does offer.
Schwab International Index Fund® (SWISX) does not cover emerging markets, Canada, or small-caps. Please see Morningstar SWISX, portfolio tab.


jminv wrote:
Sun Apr 01, 2018 3:12 am
msi wrote:
Sun Apr 01, 2018 12:40 am
michaelc wrote:
Sat Mar 31, 2018 8:21 pm
To the person who stated Schwab does not offer a total international stock index fund. That's incorrect. They do and its SWISX.
Yeah, but SWISX is just the EAFE. No emerging, no small caps, and no Canada. Contrast that with the total international funds at Vanguard and Fidelity, which do have them.
Luckily, you can still trade Vanguard's total market index fund through Schwab account while avoiding the issues mentioned in the wsj article.
Are there any transaction fees for trading Vanguard Total International Stock Index Fund if the account is at Schwab?

Luckily you can trade Fidelity® Total International Index Fund Premium Class (FTIPX) in an account at Fidelity without any transaction fees.
Last edited by ruralavalon on Sun Apr 01, 2018 11:59 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Customer Service with Vanguard

Post by Money Market » Sun Apr 01, 2018 11:41 am

PoundCake wrote:
Sun Apr 01, 2018 7:31 am
All 3 siblings were identified as beneficiaries on this IRA, and so one would think it would be easy to divide into thirds. It wasn't. Here's what happened:

Back to the division of the IRA.... about a month after the second set of forms was submitted, I was able to see that my inherited IRA had been established, the funds, and the shares in each fund. And, while I didn't know the exact balance of the larger account because Vanguard refused to tell me (see above), I had a basic idea, and what I received seemed about right. I took a snapshot of the holdings and sent it to my siblings and asked them to compare my account with theirs, once their accounts were established.

Next, my sister had her account set up. Since a little time passed since my account was created, most of the funds weren't exactly the same as mine, but were pretty close. However, some were off by a lot. We then discovered that for many of the funds, Vanguard gave my sister 1/3 of the whole. But for other funds, she had received 1/3 of what remained after my 1/3 had been given to me. That is, my sister received 1/3 or the remaining 2/3. This took several calls to clear up because Vanguard at first denied that there was any issue, claiming instead that the discrepancies in share balances were due to market fluctuations. No, it was a math error.

And finally, there's this: when Vanguard finally agreed that, as PR, I was entitled to date-of-death values for all of my mother's accounts, they sent the information to my sister, who then passed it onto me. But that was another huge error on Vanguard's part.
That is an incredibly complex maze you had to go through to get the basic information you needed in order to even verify the balances. Compounded with the fact that month's worth of market fluctuations could've affected the original balance to be inestimable, it is extremely hard to believe that Vanguard would allow such a screw-up of this level to occur. It seems to me that this estate account was passed through many layers or bureaucracy, in which each level had no clue what the others did, that could've resulted in this mess.

Sorry to hear all of this. I can't imagine how ordinary people who aren't used to dealing with estates or investments would handle this mess. Glad to hear you managed to obtain the estate in full. Hopefully, by 30 or 40 years when I have to deal with this, Vanguard will have fixed this process so it'll go smoothly in a week like how BoulderBoy reported. Perhaps he had a more competent life event team member handling the estate.

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Re: Customer Service with Vanguard

Post by retiredjg » Sun Apr 01, 2018 1:14 pm

LilyFleur wrote:
Sat Mar 31, 2018 1:43 am
I had decided to go with Vanguard to open up an Inherited IRA, and then I saw this article in the Wall Street Journal....

There is no doubt that a lot of people have complained. But that seems to have dropped off in the last few months. And many of us never had a problem.

If you want Vanguard, I'd give it a try. If things don't go well, move the money to Fidelity and buy the similar Fidelity Funds. Schwab will also do fine if you like to use ETFs instead of mutual funds, but their mutual fund list is pretty limited in my opinion. OK, but not as good as Fido or Vanguard.

Don't buy Vanguard somewhere else - it's not low cost investing if you are paying transaction fees to get the Vanguard funds.

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Re: Customer Service with Vanguard

Post by neilpilot » Sun Apr 01, 2018 1:22 pm

retiredjg wrote:
Sun Apr 01, 2018 1:14 pm

Don't buy Vanguard somewhere else - it's not low cost investing if you are paying transaction fees to get the Vanguard funds.
I'd argue that my 4 Vanguard ETF account, at Scottrade (now TDA) with free dividend reinvestment and twice annual allocation adjustments, if required, at $8/trade commission is "low cost investing". In fact, I might consider it "no cost investing".

Based on a few years of history, I anticipate I will spend $48-$64 each year on commissions. Since I collected a $1000 tax free bonus to open this Roth account, I will likely never get to a point where the total of the accumulated commissions spent exceeds that $1k opening bonus.

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Re: Customer Service with Vanguard

Post by dbr » Sun Apr 01, 2018 1:26 pm

neilpilot wrote:
Sun Apr 01, 2018 1:22 pm
retiredjg wrote:
Sun Apr 01, 2018 1:14 pm

Don't buy Vanguard somewhere else - it's not low cost investing if you are paying transaction fees to get the Vanguard funds.
I'd argue that my 4 ETF account, with free dividend reinvestment and twice annual allocation adjustments, if required, at $5/trade commission is "low cost investing". In fact, I might consider it "no cost investing".

Based on a few years of history, I anticipate I will spend $25-$50 each year on commissions. Since I collected a $1000 tax free bonus to open this Roth account, I will likely never get to a point where the total of the accumulated commissions spent exceeds that $1k opening bonus.
I too find it realistic to invest in Vanguard funds with transaction costs without incurring any more than negligible expenses. All of my Vanguard investments involve transaction costs and I spent $8.95 in 2016 and nothing in 2017. I admit to some higher costs one year when I had a number of rearrangements to make, but the average isn't worth worrying about.

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Re: Customer Service with Vanguard

Post by dewey » Sun Apr 01, 2018 1:27 pm

Overall I've been very pleased with customer service from Vanguard--and I've been with them for too many years to count.
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Re: Customer Service with Vanguard

Post by retiredjg » Sun Apr 01, 2018 1:31 pm

I would have to agree that people who make few trades are probably fine doing just that. But for people in accumulation mode buying every week or 2 weeks, paying a transaction fee for each purchase does not strike me as the best approach when it can be done completely free elsewhere.

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Re: Customer Service with Vanguard

Post by neilpilot » Sun Apr 01, 2018 1:41 pm

retiredjg wrote:
Sun Apr 01, 2018 1:31 pm
I would have to agree that people who make few trades are probably fine doing just that. But for people in accumulation mode buying every week or 2 weeks, paying a transaction fee for each purchase does not strike me as the best approach when it can be done completely free elsewhere.
So we agree.

I was commenting on your response to LilyFleur, who had opened an inherited IRA. Seems unlikely that there would be accumulation going on in that account. Please take my disagreement with your advise to LilyFleur not to buy Vanguard thru another firm in that context.

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Re: Customer Service with Vanguard

Post by nedsaid » Sun Apr 01, 2018 1:56 pm

What you have to take into account is that all companies have problems. It is how they deal with them that marks the difference between the great companies and the merely good companies. My suspicion is that Vanguard is under strain dealing with the torrents of new monies that have flooded in. Give them a chance to deal with these issues and see if things improve.

Unfortunately, customer service is often targeted when there is a need for cost cutting. There seems to be an entropy that happens with even great companies. This is why a strong corporate culture is so very important. What I am trying to say is that Vanguard's perceived problems might be Fidelity's or Schwab's problems tomorrow.
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Re: Customer Service with Vanguard

Post by retiredjg » Sun Apr 01, 2018 2:48 pm

neilpilot wrote:
Sun Apr 01, 2018 1:41 pm
retiredjg wrote:
Sun Apr 01, 2018 1:31 pm
I would have to agree that people who make few trades are probably fine doing just that. But for people in accumulation mode buying every week or 2 weeks, paying a transaction fee for each purchase does not strike me as the best approach when it can be done completely free elsewhere.
So we agree.

I was commenting on your response to LilyFleur, who had opened an inherited IRA. Seems unlikely that there would be accumulation going on in that account. Please take my disagreement with your advise to LilyFleur not to buy Vanguard thru another firm in that context.
I think we probably do agree. I was thinking of a whole portfolio, not just one account that won't need many trades.

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Re: Customer Service with Vanguard

Post by GerryL » Sun Apr 01, 2018 5:14 pm

I am one of those people who have been with Vanguard for more than two decades and who have recently encountered issues with their service. Key lesson for me has been: Document any action you execute on the website. If you execute an order to sell, be sure to capture a screen print that shows the detail of the order (e.g., SpecID and identified lots). If an error occurs, you will have documentation that it was not your error.

I was doing this for my own benefit, so I would remember which shares I intended to sell. Turned out I needed those screen shots to convince them that they had recorded/reported the order incorrectly.

In this day and age, when so many transactions are done online, it is probably a good idea to do this with any company, not just VG.

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Re: Customer Service with Vanguard

Post by John151 » Sun Apr 01, 2018 5:25 pm

I’ve been investing with Vanguard for over thirty years, and I’ve never had a service problem, with one exception. I was invested in Vanguard’s Tax-Managed International Fund, and all of its dividends qualified for favorable tax treatment. Then Vanguard decided to merge the fund with Vanguard Developed Markets Index, and now only 70% of the dividends are qualified. So my taxes have gone up. I’ve considered selling the fund, but that would cost a lot in capital gains taxes, so I’m stuck with a fund that isn’t doing what I wanted it to do.

Partly for this reason, I’m leery of making any material changes in my Vanguard investments, including being “upgraded” to a Vanguard brokerage account. I won’t upgrade unless I’m forced to.
Last edited by John151 on Sun Apr 01, 2018 9:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Customer Service with Vanguard

Post by FrugalInvestor » Sun Apr 01, 2018 5:46 pm

I've also been with Vanguard since the 1980's. My wife and I hold mutual funds only (no ETFs) in taxable, TIRA, Roth IRA and 529 accounts. I had some minor difficulty with an un-knowledgeable representative a few years ago when doing my first Roth IRA conversion/recharacterization but nothing since. I am retired and do very few transactions other than auto and manual redemptions to our checking account.

I too will not be pleased if and when I am asked (or told) to 'upgrade' to the new brokerage platform. I have no need for a brokerage account or for adding any complication to my account management.
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Re: Customer Service with Vanguard

Post by Dead Man Walking » Mon Apr 02, 2018 1:15 am

I have invested with Vanguard since the 1980's and have conducted business via either snail mail or the internet most of the time. I've probably called less than a dozen times over that time period. The only problem that I have experienced was a recent experience involving my checking account with Prime Money Market Fund. I had not written a check on the account for about a decade. Vanguard sent me an email stating that I had a few options to maintain my check writing privileges with my account. One of the options was to write a check on the account before a specific date. I wrote the check before that date and it bounced. The bounced check cost me $12. The Vanguard representative that I spoke to was courteous, but didn't offer a reimbursement. I assume that Vanguard could careless if move my investments to another firm. This would probably be the case with any investment company since I don't have millions. Customer service for small accounts doesn't exist. BTW, I have several Admiral accounts with Vanguard, including one with a $50,000 minimum.

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Re: Customer Service with Vanguard

Post by fourwheelcycle » Mon Apr 02, 2018 6:53 am

My wife and I have had all of our non-employer-based savings at Vanguard for over thirty-five years. We have never had a problem with incorrect accounts postings or incorrect email notices. As we retire we are also moving our employer-based savings to Vanguard.

I served as my aunt's POA and then executor during the last years of her life. Working with her, I consolidated all of her savings art Vanguard so it would be easier for me to manage during her life and distribute to her sibling heirs after her death. Everything went smoothly.

I was surprised that one poster above was upset when his Vanguard rep said he would be his advocate within Vanguard. Vanguard is a big company, with many separate offices/divisions for regular account transactions, transferring funds from other institutions, managing IRAs, setting accounts up as trusts, and "transitions", which I think is their name for the office that assists with funds transfers after deaths. I always appreciate the help I get from our representative, who knows people in the other offices and always gets me to the right person to assist me when a special need comes along.

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Re: Customer Service with Vanguard

Post by PoundCake » Mon Apr 02, 2018 7:31 am

fourwheelcycle wrote:
Mon Apr 02, 2018 6:53 am
I was surprised that one poster above was upset when his Vanguard rep said he would be his advocate within Vanguard. Vanguard is a big company, with many separate offices/divisions for regular account transactions, transferring funds from other institutions, managing IRAs, setting accounts up as trusts, and "transitions", which I think is their name for the office that assists with funds transfers after deaths. I always appreciate the help I get from our representative, who knows people in the other offices and always gets me to the right person to assist me when a special need comes along.
That poster was me, and the reference was to something my flagship rep told me at the end of a multi-month estate debacle where Vanguard made repeated mistakes, some small but many quite large. I can appreciate that Vanguard is a big company, and I recognize that inevitably, there will be some right hand/left hand problems along the way. But no Vanguard customer should need an "advocate" to help navigate the division of an IRA into thirds and to correct that division when it goes wrong. No Vanguard customer should need an "advocate" to get access to basic accounting information to which she is plainly entitled as the PR of an estate. No Vanguard customer should have to submit and re-submit the same documents, and then have to rely on her "advocate" to point out that the documents are already in the system.

I'm glad for those folks who have not experienced these problems; I wish I could be part of that group.

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Re: Customer Service with Vanguard

Post by kiddoc » Mon Apr 02, 2018 10:38 am

PoundCake wrote:
Mon Apr 02, 2018 7:31 am
I'm glad for those folks who have not experienced these problems; I wish I could be part of that group.
:beer My thoughts exactly. The non-profit status and Jack Bogle philosophy sound great. The low expense ratio and no sales pressure seem amazing. The people complaining on forums seem like isolated incidents which happen with any brokerage...

... until Vanguard screws up basic accounting/ record keeping, creates a tax liability of ~$13,000 for you, their "inquiry" gets nowhere in 3 months, and no one seems willing to help or to respond in a timely way. Asking them to correct their mistake is labelled "asking for tax advice, which we are not qualified to give. Please contact a tax attorney".

At that point you think, "Well, maybe a 0.01% increase in expense ratio or the occasional sales pitch to avoid this would not be so bad. At least I would have an office where I can plop down and refuse to get up till they fix things".
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Re: Customer Service with Vanguard

Post by Money Market » Mon Apr 02, 2018 4:54 pm

kiddoc wrote:
Mon Apr 02, 2018 10:38 am
PoundCake wrote:
Mon Apr 02, 2018 7:31 am
I'm glad for those folks who have not experienced these problems; I wish I could be part of that group.
:beer My thoughts exactly. The non-profit status and Jack Bogle philosophy sound great. The low expense ratio and no sales pressure seem amazing. The people complaining on forums seem like isolated incidents which happen with any brokerage...

... until Vanguard screws up basic accounting/ record keeping, creates a tax liability of ~$13,000 for you, their "inquiry" gets nowhere in 3 months, and no one seems willing to help or to respond in a timely way. Asking them to correct their mistake is labelled "asking for tax advice, which we are not qualified to give. Please contact a tax attorney".

At that point you think, "Well, maybe a 0.01% increase in expense ratio or the occasional sales pitch to avoid this would not be so bad. At least I would have an office where I can plop down and refuse to get up till they fix things".
I would normally CFPB any financial institution that plays games with me like what VG did to Pound cake, but I am concerned about retaliation from VG in the form of termination of my account at their brokerage.

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Re: Customer Service with Vanguard

Post by LadyGeek » Tue Apr 24, 2018 6:40 pm

New member mawvan has a question which I've moved into a stand-alone thread: [Vanguard account locked out due to deceased owner]
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Re: Customer Service with Vanguard

Post by kaneohe » Wed Apr 25, 2018 8:58 am

ruralavalon wrote:
Sat Mar 31, 2018 2:08 pm
......................................................................
Schwab does not have a total international stock index fund. ................................
SWISX?

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Re: Customer Service with Vanguard

Post by ruralavalon » Wed Apr 25, 2018 10:06 am

kaneohe wrote:
Wed Apr 25, 2018 8:58 am
ruralavalon wrote:
Sat Mar 31, 2018 2:08 pm
......................................................................
Schwab does not have a total international stock index fund. ................................
SWISX?
Schwab International Index Fund (SWISX) covers only larger companies in developed markets, except Canada. It does not include emerging markets, Canadian stocks, and stocks of smaller companies.

At Schwab you need 2-3 ETFs to simulate a total international stock market index fund.
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