This is Unbelievable - another Vanguard customer support odyssey

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Chicken lady
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This is Unbelievable - another Vanguard customer support odyssey

Post by Chicken lady » Tue Dec 26, 2017 10:50 pm

We've been doing business with Vanguard, mutual funds only, for many years. Recently, we have attempted several simple transactions and in every case, Vanguard has totally muffed it. Here's what's up:

1. Rolled a investor acct into another admiral level account of the same name. The transfer went OK but then I received a transaction verification that the transaction had occurred but it was changed from specific ID to avg cost. Wrong.

2. Talked to a flagship support person about transferring 100% of 403b money into 2 new separate funds - one a traditional IRA, the other a roth. Paperwork was submitted at the end of October (almost 2 months ago at this point) before the new 403b management group took over. The process included obtaining the signature of my husband's former supervisor who is across the country. The transfer to the Roth went off without a hitch the IRA transfer has never occurred.

Said they could not complete the transfer if there was not a specific dollar amount to transfer. I wanted the balance (or 100%) transferred once the Roth was completed - this was noted on the form which the flagship support person completed for me and sent me via email. I added a notation to transfer the balance upon the flagship rep's directive.

3. Requested a call with a supervisor. The supervisor was unable to intercede with the 403b folks who are totally separate operationally but a newly revised form was sent shortly for re-completion (along with gaining the former supervisor's signature - again). Sent that back in - in conversation with customer support for the 403b plan - they said they wouldn't accept the earlier authorization because they just wouldn't. Sent in the second form. No response - again.

4. Had a phone call with another 403b customer support person about why they cannot seem to roll over the money into a plain jane mutual fund. This fellow said he would have to consult with a supervisor and the transaction would be completed within 10 days at the latest. Nothing again until TODAY! Sent an email to the 403b help site 2 days ago asking for someone to help. The contact today was an email insisting that the transfer request form has to be re-submitted AGAIN.

5. Now, we've asked for a phone conference with a manager who has the authority to resolve this problem - tomorrow. We'll see.

I know this is LONG but my message is if Vanguard cannot competently manage simple transactions can they be trusted to manage our money competently? I'm beginning to wonder and am beginning to look around at other options. These are transactions I would expect to be completed in a normal business week - not 2 months and still waiting. :annoyed

For those of you who have hung on with me on this, thank you for your patience.

sambb
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Re: This is Unbelievable - another Vanguard customer support odyssey

Post by sambb » Tue Dec 26, 2017 10:56 pm

The service and IT issues at vanguard are astounding, and point to a potential major failure of vanguard leadership.

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Re: This is Unbelievable - another Vanguard customer support odyssey

Post by cp73 » Wed Dec 27, 2017 12:32 am

You think thats bad listen to this. In January 2017 I had several IRAs at Vanguard I wanted to roll into just one IRA at Vanguard. I wanted to avoid all the duplicate investments I had and tried to make it simpler. It was over 1M I was moving around. It also involved opening up some of the new brokerage type accounts to make this happen. It seemed to go ok. However, a couple of weeks later I decided to trace through all the transactions to make sure it was handled correctly. In doing this I found approximate $20,000 was missing. I could see it coming out of an account but not going anywhere. I contacted my advisor and he said give him a few days to confirm this. He calls me back and says they need another week. At a week they call back and confirm to me what had happened. He said the money was sitting like in a duplicate of my account that doesn't show up anywhere. I told him I wanted this in writing that they confirmed the mistake and it was being fixed. This was also a software glitch. They were very nice about this and apologized. Said that they would have eventually caught this. But I am glad I did. It took about 30 days which was their estimate to get this completed and fixed. Now I make sure I always confirm my transactions get done when I move things around.

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Re: This is Unbelievable - another Vanguard customer support odyssey

Post by kd2008 » Wed Dec 27, 2017 2:23 am

Vanguard funds are still one of the best. If you do not like their brokerage services, then choose someone else.

https://thefinancebuff.com/who-manages- ... ounts.html

Old style Mutual fund accounts are going away one way or the other.

It is best to seperate out opening new accounts from transaction of funding them.

OP, you gave unacceptable instructions for traditional IRA transfer. 100% of balance after Roth transaction may seem simple to you. But for 403b recordkeeping purposes, each transaction is separate. You flagship representative made an elementary error and resulted in path of resolution that was hard to navigate.

Each transaction needs a dollar amount specified. Especially, when funds are distributed to multiple accounts in a single transaction. Or percentages need to be specified on all adding up to 100%. You cannot give dollar amount for Roth and 100% for traditional IRA. If you want to do that, do them separately.

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Re: This is Unbelievable - another Vanguard customer support odyssey

Post by celia » Wed Dec 27, 2017 3:12 am

Chicken lady wrote:
Tue Dec 26, 2017 10:50 pm
1. Rolled a investor acct into another admiral level account of the same name. The transfer went OK but then I received a transaction verification that the transaction had occurred but it was changed from specific ID to avg cost.
This is what I would expect to happen when I open a new fund, especially if some funds in the account are tagged one way, while others are tagged opposite. They may not know which settings you want to carry over, so are probably going with the default.
2. Talked to a flagship support person about transferring 100% of 403b money into 2 new separate funds - one a traditional IRA, the other a roth.
See kd2008's answer.
3-4. Requested a call with a supervisor. The supervisor was unable to intercede with the 403b folks who are totally separate operationally....
Although I haven't had a 403b at Vanguard for 20+ years (possibly never had one there), I received several letters in the mail this year about another company now being in charge of 403b's for Vanguard. I no longer have those letters but if you ask why the transition is being made and where they are in the turn-over process, you might get a better idea of where your account fits into the bigger picture.

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Re: This is Unbelievable - another Vanguard customer support odyssey

Post by HIinvestor » Wed Dec 27, 2017 4:11 am

:annoyed
I’d be pretty concerned if I had as much trouble completing what sound like fairly simple transactions. I have had very few issues getting Schwab and and Fidelity to complete my transactions as desired. I like that Schwab still has a bricks & mortar branch in my city.

Good luck—hope you are able cqsv

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Re: This is Unbelievable - another Vanguard customer support odyssey

Post by jumppilot » Wed Dec 27, 2017 4:21 am

OP,

Sorry for your experience.

Per the link from a previous poster, you can have the best of both worlds.

When my parents retired we moved their retirement assets over to Schwab but invested everything in the Vanguard Balanced fund. It cost about $300 in trading fees to get their various accounts set up but it was well worth it.

As an aside, I know the name of the game is lowest ER, but I think we are at a point of diminishing returns. I'd rather pay 10 basis points for terrific customer service, robust IT, etc, than 4 basis points and have the issues you described.

Do we really want to make a pizza so cheap no one will eat it?

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Re: This is Unbelievable - another Vanguard customer support odyssey

Post by digarei » Wed Dec 27, 2017 8:01 am

jumppilot wrote:
Wed Dec 27, 2017 4:21 am

As an aside, I know the name of the game is lowest ER, but I think we are at a point of diminishing returns. I'd rather pay 10 basis points for terrific customer service, robust IT, etc, than 4 basis points and have the issues you described.

Do we really want to make a pizza so cheap no one will eat it?
Though perhaps you’ve heard that unlike many consumer products, with investing, “You get what you don’t pay for.”

If the objective is the growth and/or preservation of capital, low costs do not lead to diminishing returns.
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Re: This is Unbelievable - another Vanguard customer support odyssey

Post by triceratop » Wed Dec 27, 2017 9:24 am

digarei wrote:
Wed Dec 27, 2017 8:01 am
jumppilot wrote:
Wed Dec 27, 2017 4:21 am

As an aside, I know the name of the game is lowest ER, but I think we are at a point of diminishing returns. I'd rather pay 10 basis points for terrific customer service, robust IT, etc, than 4 basis points and have the issues you described.

Do we really want to make a pizza so cheap no one will eat it?
Though perhaps you’ve heard that unlike many consumer products, with investing, “You get what you don’t pay for.”

If the objective is the growth and/or preservation of capital, low costs do not lead to diminishing returns.
No, in this case there is also "diminishing returns". In the past, when Vanguard cut expense ratios by 50%, from 50bp to 25bp that was 25bp you were saving. That is quite a lot of money. Now, it may be only 2bp. That is diminishing returns to the same expense cut and it is to what jumppilot is referring.

There may be a case for Vanguard focusing on customer service instead of driving costs to zero. I am not sure how the accounting works though, but it seems unlikely the needed funds would come out of fund costs. If so, it is unfortunate for Vanguard, if they care about continued growth, because they are competing with the likes of iShares who don't have to spend any money on customer support.
"To play the stock market is to play musical chairs under the chord progression of a bid-ask spread."

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Re: This is Unbelievable - another Vanguard customer support odyssey

Post by digarei » Wed Dec 27, 2017 9:53 am

triceratop wrote:
Wed Dec 27, 2017 9:24 am
digarei wrote:
Wed Dec 27, 2017 8:01 am
jumppilot wrote:
Wed Dec 27, 2017 4:21 am

As an aside, I know the name of the game is lowest ER, but I think we are at a point of diminishing returns. I'd rather pay 10 basis points for terrific customer service, robust IT, etc, than 4 basis points and have the issues you described.

Do we really want to make a pizza so cheap no one will eat it?
Though perhaps you’ve heard that unlike many consumer products, with investing, “You get what you don’t pay for.”

If the objective is the growth and/or preservation of capital, low costs do not lead to diminishing returns.
No, in this case there is also "diminishing returns". In the past, when Vanguard cut expense ratios by 50%, from 50bp to 25bp that was 25bp you were saving. That is quite a lot of money. Now, it may be only 2bp. That is diminishing returns to the same expense cut and it is to what jumppilot is referring.

There may be a case for Vanguard focusing on customer service instead of driving costs to zero. I am not sure how the accounting works though, but it seems unlikely the needed funds would come out of fund costs. If so, it is unfortunate for Vanguard, if they care about continued growth, because they are competing with the likes of iShares who don't have to spend any money on customer support.
I should have said,

“low costs do not lead to diminished returns.”

Valuations along with opinions about what constitutes good customer service are subjective. But even a single basis point conserved will contribute toward one’s net returns.

Is it possible to create a mutual fund or ETF so cheap that no one will buy it? Not likely.
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triceratop
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Re: This is Unbelievable - another Vanguard customer support odyssey

Post by triceratop » Wed Dec 27, 2017 10:19 am

Correct, but that is not contradictory to what the person you responded to said.

And from their perspective (from mine, I love it since I do not use Vanguard brokerage), much cheaper funds doesn't help them if they cannot execute basic account functions. Given that their time is money I wonder how much the ER on their net assets has been due to this.
"To play the stock market is to play musical chairs under the chord progression of a bid-ask spread."

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Re: This is Unbelievable - another Vanguard customer support odyssey

Post by digarei » Wed Dec 27, 2017 11:12 am

triceratop wrote:
Wed Dec 27, 2017 10:19 am
Correct, but that is not contradictory to what the person you responded to said.

And from their perspective (from mine, I love it since I do not use Vanguard brokerage), much cheaper funds doesn't help them if they cannot execute basic account functions. Given that their time is money I wonder how much the ER on their net assets has been due to this.
It wasn’t intended to be contradictory. It was to make a point of about the absolute advantage of low costs on returns and in reply to the question “Do we really want to make a pizza so cheap no one will eat it?”

I think the answer is “Yes” and “No”.

Yes, we should want this.
No, it’s probably not possible to create a fund with costs so low no one would buy it.

We shall have to agree to disagree about Vanguard’s level of customer service. I don’t know of anyone who “cannot execute basic account functions”.
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Re: This is Unbelievable - another Vanguard customer support odyssey

Post by stan1 » Wed Dec 27, 2017 11:20 am

I have to agree that Vanguard is not very good with human in the loop transactions and exception handling. I've had problems with human induced mistakes, rigid policies disclosed in more detail after a non-reversible transaction was initiated, and never being notified that a transaction was in an error queue needing additional information from me. Fortunately I have simple needs most of the time and only need to talk to someone at Vanguard about once every 3-5 years.

It won't help OP now but I would have done the 403b to IRA transfer/conversion at Schwab or Fidelity for better customer service then moved the resulting IRAs to Vanguard for lowest fees.

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Re: This is Unbelievable - another Vanguard customer support odyssey

Post by Chicken lady » Wed Dec 27, 2017 12:51 pm

It's me again, the OP. Other than the exasperation at what seemed to be pretty simple transactions run amock, my post was mainly to point out that even if you do everything exactly by the book - sometimes even Vanguard doesn't seem to know what their rules are and how to execute them.

To clarify, the 403b transaction document that was submitted asks where do you want the money moved to? An IRA, a Roth, or both? I selected both since that was an option.

Requiring an exact amount before the final transaction can be executed, if one is totally emptying an account, is a riddle that cannot be answered since there is no way for the owner (me) to know the exact day and time the transfer will occur (and thus - the final amount). I relied on the flagship advisor who directed me to write in that I wanted the total amount transferred once the Roth was completed. Did that. Seems if they cannot manage two different transaction simultaneously, they would remove that option from their form.

As for the avg price mix up - there's no explaining it. Both funds were pre-existing with the same specific ID status. This one just came out of the blue.

We are long time Vanguard investors and have had few and inconsequential minor issues in the past. We appreciate the low cost and flexibility Vanguard has offered us as we've worked to consolidate most of our investments with them.

My spouse has little interest in investments or their management - thus I've worked to base our investments in funds that will require minimum action should I be unable to continue for some reason. He is becoming concerned that we might have future difficulty that would be more serious and could involve the loss of some of our investment (like what happened to it? It was there yesterday) or that Vanguard would seemingly delay paying after transactions. The internet is full of people complaining that they've been waiting months and months to extract their money from Vanguard. Not good.

I understand that V is growing by leaps and bounds and is hiring new customer support staff. Everyone is a newbie at some point and has to learn the job. I hope they get through these growing pains soon and that something more serious is not wrong.

Thanks to kd2008 for the link.

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Re: This is Unbelievable - another Vanguard customer support odyssey

Post by unclescrooge » Wed Dec 27, 2017 1:46 pm

digarei wrote:
Wed Dec 27, 2017 8:01 am
jumppilot wrote:
Wed Dec 27, 2017 4:21 am

As an aside, I know the name of the game is lowest ER, but I think we are at a point of diminishing returns. I'd rather pay 10 basis points for terrific customer service, robust IT, etc, than 4 basis points and have the issues you described.

Do we really want to make a pizza so cheap no one will eat it?
Though perhaps you’ve heard that unlike many consumer products, with investing, “You get what you don’t pay for.”

If the objective is the growth and/or preservation of capital, low costs do not lead to diminishing returns.
If you value your time then you will pay for costumer service.

If your time has no value, then you'll be okay dealing with this monkey business.

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Re: This is Unbelievable - another Vanguard customer support odyssey

Post by MrPotatoHead » Wed Dec 27, 2017 2:23 pm

Chicken lady wrote:
Tue Dec 26, 2017 10:50 pm

I know this is LONG but my message is if Vanguard cannot competently manage simple transactions can they be trusted to manage our money competently? I'm beginning to wonder and am beginning to look around at other options. These are transactions I would expect to be completed in a normal business week - not 2 months and still waiting. :annoyed
I am not a Vanguard fan at all based on analogous experience, but in their defense the investment side of their house is sound, it is simply the business operations, governance, and customer service that is totally "kittened" at Vanguard. Those are endemic cultural issues that are not easily changed. I have yet to see a company that was not initially customer centric ever evolve into a company with good customer service.

So you make a choice. If you value customer service I would look elsewhere. IMO, Vanguard is not a first tier firm in terms of customer service, it is not even second tier, and frankly I don't see it as third tier either...the issue with Vanguard is one of employer-employee trust and they clearly do not empower their employees to act on the customer's behalf. Vanguard can add all the employees they want to, but the problem is a corporate culture issue. In order to have first tier customer service you have to pay employees enough so that you can attract the type of people who you can empower with binding decision making authority. That is not going to happen at Vanguard. The best you are likely to ever get from Vanguard is a level of lip service and diminished hold times in the queue as they attempt to mimic effective customer service with low-paid bodies in seats.

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Re: This is Unbelievable - another Vanguard customer support odyssey

Post by Engineer250 » Wed Dec 27, 2017 4:09 pm

MrPotatoHead wrote:
Wed Dec 27, 2017 2:23 pm
The best you are likely to ever get from Vanguard is a level of lip service and diminished hold times in the queue as they attempt to mimic effective customer service with low-paid bodies in seats.
Maybe my experience is unique, but I haven't had an issue with hold times with them lately. My 401k is through Vanguard which is a different customer service group than the brokerage side (where I have a Roth and a tIRA). I called to ask how contributions over the tax limit (i.e., the 2017 $18k limit) were handled as some PDF from my employer kind of said two things. She answered plainly and clearly. I then said I wanted to be enrolled in the brokerage option for my 401. She misunderstood and transferred me to the brokerage side in less than 30 seconds I got someone. He understood and transferred me back to the employer-plans side and again in less than 30 seconds I got someone. That guy helpfully told me he could do it on the phone for me but it would be quicker to do online. I had actually been trying to find where to do it online but kept missing it, so he told me where to go and while on the phone I filled it out. He confirmed with me on the phone that he got the application and said it would take 3-5 business days (the online confirmation said 1-2, but it took 4 so he was more correct).

I suspect a lot of positive customer service stories just don't get told. And anyways, lots of us have much more simple finances. I'm not wealthy enough to have an after-tax brokerage at this point in my life so the complications there don't affect me.

But I've also had Schwab and Fidelity in the past and they were both great and I wouldn't hesitate to tell someone to work with them, especially if they were the kind of person that wanted more customer service support.
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Re: This is Unbelievable - another Vanguard customer support odyssey

Post by AndrewXnn » Wed Dec 27, 2017 5:12 pm

It may be unrealistic to expect a receiving institution to know the cost basis of funds unless the previous institution provided that information in the proper format. Could the problem be with the previous institution, which was not named?

Have no idea why a former supervisor would ever need to be contacted regarding a 403b account transfer. Could the change in management or the insistence of involving a former supervisor be the real issue as well? Who insisted that the former supervisor was needed? That part does not make sense. What was the purpose?

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Re: This is Unbelievable - another Vanguard customer support odyssey

Post by triceratop » Wed Dec 27, 2017 5:19 pm

unclescrooge wrote:
Wed Dec 27, 2017 1:46 pm
digarei wrote:
Wed Dec 27, 2017 8:01 am
jumppilot wrote:
Wed Dec 27, 2017 4:21 am

As an aside, I know the name of the game is lowest ER, but I think we are at a point of diminishing returns. I'd rather pay 10 basis points for terrific customer service, robust IT, etc, than 4 basis points and have the issues you described.

Do we really want to make a pizza so cheap no one will eat it?
Though perhaps you’ve heard that unlike many consumer products, with investing, “You get what you don’t pay for.”

If the objective is the growth and/or preservation of capital, low costs do not lead to diminishing returns.
If you value your time then you will pay for costumer service.

If your time has no value, then you'll be okay dealing with this monkey business.
Alternatively, one can have others pay for your customer service by using commission-free brokerages and buying low-cost index ETFs. Many bogleheads pursue this strategy.
"To play the stock market is to play musical chairs under the chord progression of a bid-ask spread."

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Re: This is Unbelievable - another Vanguard customer support odyssey

Post by FIREchief » Wed Dec 27, 2017 6:55 pm

I'm confused. I have the choice to hold VG funds/ETFs with rock bottom expense ratios at either a brokerage with excellent customer service or at VG. Don't I receive an identical investment return in both scenarios. How would tolerating poor customer service enable me to pay less ER fees?
I am not a lawyer, accountant or financial advisor. Any advice or suggestions that I may provide shall be considered for entertainment purposes only.

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Re: This is Unbelievable - another Vanguard customer support odyssey

Post by triceratop » Wed Dec 27, 2017 7:12 pm

FIREchief wrote:
Wed Dec 27, 2017 6:55 pm
I'm confused. I have the choice to hold VG funds/ETFs with rock bottom expense ratios at either a brokerage with excellent customer service or at VG. Don't I receive an identical investment return in both scenarios. How would tolerating poor customer service enable me to pay less ER fees?
It doesn't, but people like to pretend that that brokerage is going to "get" you, somehow, in the end. Such people never explain precisely how the Boglehead pursuing this strategy will end up on the short end of the deal. :?
"To play the stock market is to play musical chairs under the chord progression of a bid-ask spread."

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Re: This is Unbelievable - another Vanguard customer support odyssey

Post by unclescrooge » Wed Dec 27, 2017 8:51 pm

triceratop wrote:
Wed Dec 27, 2017 5:19 pm
unclescrooge wrote:
Wed Dec 27, 2017 1:46 pm
digarei wrote:
Wed Dec 27, 2017 8:01 am
jumppilot wrote:
Wed Dec 27, 2017 4:21 am

As an aside, I know the name of the game is lowest ER, but I think we are at a point of diminishing returns. I'd rather pay 10 basis points for terrific customer service, robust IT, etc, than 4 basis points and have the issues you described.

Do we really want to make a pizza so cheap no one will eat it?
Though perhaps you’ve heard that unlike many consumer products, with investing, “You get what you don’t pay for.”

If the objective is the growth and/or preservation of capital, low costs do not lead to diminishing returns.
If you value your time then you will pay for costumer service.

If your time has no value, then you'll be okay dealing with this monkey business.
Alternatively, one can have others pay for your customer service by using commission-free brokerages and buying low-cost index ETFs. Many bogleheads pursue this strategy.
Ah, you've found the elusive free lunch! :mrgreen:

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Re: This is Unbelievable - another Vanguard customer support odyssey

Post by triceratop » Wed Dec 27, 2017 9:04 pm

triceratop wrote:
Wed Dec 27, 2017 7:12 pm
FIREchief wrote:
Wed Dec 27, 2017 6:55 pm
I'm confused. I have the choice to hold VG funds/ETFs with rock bottom expense ratios at either a brokerage with excellent customer service or at VG. Don't I receive an identical investment return in both scenarios. How would tolerating poor customer service enable me to pay less ER fees?
It doesn't, but people like to pretend that that brokerage is going to "get" you, somehow, in the end. Such people never explain precisely how the Boglehead pursuing this strategy will end up on the short end of the deal. :?
See above for example, as if by request! :D
"To play the stock market is to play musical chairs under the chord progression of a bid-ask spread."

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Re: This is Unbelievable - another Vanguard customer support odyssey

Post by jumppilot » Wed Dec 27, 2017 10:06 pm

digarei wrote:
Wed Dec 27, 2017 8:01 am
jumppilot wrote:
Wed Dec 27, 2017 4:21 am

As an aside, I know the name of the game is lowest ER, but I think we are at a point of diminishing returns. I'd rather pay 10 basis points for terrific customer service, robust IT, etc, than 4 basis points and have the issues you described.

Do we really want to make a pizza so cheap no one will eat it?
Though perhaps you’ve heard that unlike many consumer products, with investing, “You get what you don’t pay for.”

If the objective is the growth and/or preservation of capital, low costs do not lead to diminishing returns.

I understand your point but I don't necessarily agree with it.

At this point in investing history, the retail investor has won. We don't have to pay trading fees, ERs are at rock bottom and we can get the service that, historically, only used to be available at full service investing firms.

ER are so low that is doesn't make a different if they go lower.

Compare the following S&P 500 funds:

SPY, with an expense ratio of .09
Vanguard VFINX with an expense ratio of .14
Schwab SWPPX with an expense ratio of .03.

All 3 have a 5 year market return of 14.1%, according to a quick lookup I just did. Even the Vanguard fund with an ER of 5 times the lowest price offering.

We've reached the point of diminishing returns in regards to going lower on the ER. The game has been won and cost are being cut to the detriment of other important aspects of investing, like customer service.

So yes, I'd gladly pay 10bps if I get excellent service, brick and mortar branches, a Christmas card and access to a support network that is second to none.

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Re: This is Unbelievable - another Vanguard customer support odyssey

Post by digarei » Wed Dec 27, 2017 10:28 pm

jumppilot wrote:
Wed Dec 27, 2017 10:06 pm
digarei wrote:
Wed Dec 27, 2017 8:01 am
jumppilot wrote:
Wed Dec 27, 2017 4:21 am

As an aside, I know the name of the game is lowest ER, but I think we are at a point of diminishing returns. I'd rather pay 10 basis points for terrific customer service, robust IT, etc, than 4 basis points and have the issues you described.

Do we really want to make a pizza so cheap no one will eat it?
Though perhaps you’ve heard that unlike many consumer products, with investing, “You get what you don’t pay for.”

If the objective is the growth and/or preservation of capital, low costs do not lead to diminishing returns.

I understand your point but I don't necessarily agree with it.

At this point in investing history, the retail investor has won. We don't have to pay trading fees, ERs are at rock bottom and we can get the service that, historically, only used to be available at full service investing firms.

ER are so low that is doesn't make a different if they go lower.

A single basis point (.0001) for a one million dollar portfolio is $100 per annum. So, a tiny difference but not no difference.

Compare the following S&P 500 funds:

SPY, with an expense ratio of .09
Vanguard VFINX with an expense ratio of .14
Schwab SWPPX with an expense ratio of .03.

All 3 have a 5 year market return of 14.1%, according to a quick lookup I just did. Even the Vanguard fund with an ER of 5 times the lowest price offering.

We've reached the point of diminishing returns in regards to going lower on the ER. The game has been won and cost are being cut to the detriment of other important aspects of investing, like customer service.

I wonder if this is true. Is it correct to assume that the reason for poor customer service is cost cutting? Or has this been documented?

So yes, I'd gladly pay 10bps if I get excellent service, brick and mortar branches, a Christmas card and access to a support network that is second to none.
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Re: This is Unbelievable - another Vanguard customer support odyssey

Post by Chip » Thu Dec 28, 2017 4:38 am

jumppilot wrote:
Wed Dec 27, 2017 10:06 pm
So yes, I'd gladly pay 10bps if I get excellent service, brick and mortar branches, a Christmas card and access to a support network that is second to none.
That reminds me that I didn't get my usual Christmas card from Fidelity this year. I guess those lower expenses on their index funds are having an effect. :P

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Re: This is Unbelievable - another Vanguard customer support odyssey

Post by TimeRunner » Thu Dec 28, 2017 10:01 am

It's easy to speculate why VG has declining customer service, but the end result is that customer service has declined and quality alternatives exist, with additional advantages such as walk-in offices to accept, notarize or troubleshoot (if necessary), and process transfer/trust/checkwriting (etc) paperwork. As VG moves to a brokerage model, it finds itself competing with others who find themselves competing with VG. And so it goes.
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Re: This is Unbelievable - another Vanguard customer support odyssey

Post by BolderBoy » Thu Dec 28, 2017 12:44 pm

Chicken lady wrote:
Tue Dec 26, 2017 10:50 pm
2. Talked to a flagship support person about transferring 100% of 403b money into 2 new separate funds - one a traditional IRA, the other a roth.

I know this is LONG but my message is if Vanguard cannot competently manage simple transactions
Doesn't sound simple to me.

What are you doing? What it looks like you want to do, is to transfer a 403b to a Vanguard tIRA while making a Roth conversion at the same time within the same transaction. Is that right? Such complex processes are fraught with risk that it won't go smoothly.

Why didn't you merely transfer the 403b to the tIRA and when that was settled, then do the Roth conversion?

Puzzled...
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Re: This is Unbelievable - another Vanguard customer support odyssey

Post by BolderBoy » Thu Dec 28, 2017 12:52 pm

kd2008 wrote:
Wed Dec 27, 2017 2:23 am
Old style Mutual fund accounts are going away one way or the other.
This may not be completely true. I only have the "old style Mutual fund accounts" and when I talked with a rep some months back I implored her to not switch me to the "new style Brokerage fund accounts." She said there is no intention of doing so with my account. (I don't do ETFs and that may be key here)

I believe that Nisiprius is also with the old style. Another friend I have is also with the old style. I'll bet there are thousands of others as well.
"Never underestimate one's capacity to overestimate one's abilities" - The Dunning-Kruger Effect

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Re: This is Unbelievable - another Vanguard customer support odyssey

Post by celia » Thu Dec 28, 2017 1:01 pm

BolderBoy wrote:
Thu Dec 28, 2017 12:52 pm
kd2008 wrote:
Wed Dec 27, 2017 2:23 am
Old style Mutual fund accounts are going away one way or the other.
This may not be completely true. I only have the "old style Mutual fund accounts" and when I talked with a rep some months back I implored her to not switch me to the "new style Brokerage fund accounts." She said there is no intention of doing so with my account. (I don't do ETFs and that may be key here)

I believe that Nisiprius is also with the old style. Another friend I have is also with the old style. I'll bet there are thousands of others as well.
I'm on the old platform too. I think the key is that only existing accounts can stay on the old platform, not new ones. Although there may be an exception for those who work in the financial industry due to investing in mutual funds only. I assume this is to avoid the perception of insider trading.

I also agree that the OP's transactions are not "simple". If they are simple, what do you consider "complex", OP?

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Re: This is Unbelievable - another Vanguard customer support odyssey

Post by Monster99 » Thu Dec 28, 2017 1:47 pm

I have recently retired and am thinking of rolling my 401K over next year - It is 90% t401K and 10% roth 401K. From the way the funds are tracked in the 401K, they look "co-mingled", in that if I move money to a different fund, the money is 90% traditional and 10% roth. I am really concerned that this will cause problems when I roll it over at VG.

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Re: This is Unbelievable - another Vanguard customer support odyssey

Post by KSActuary » Thu Dec 28, 2017 2:27 pm

Work with Vanguard quite a bit and they will tell you that they have a difficult time keeping certain online clients due to perceived poor service.

A Boglehead
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Re: This is Unbelievable - another Vanguard customer support odyssey

Post by A Boglehead » Fri Dec 29, 2017 2:18 am

Do you have any advice re: how to deal with Vanguard? Or who to change to?

12/13 I learned I had to "upgrade" my mutual fund account to a brokerage account in order to gift securities, so I started the process online. 12/15 I mailed the paperwork to gift securities. 12/22 I learned they needed to verify my identity to do the "upgrade". I faxed and emailed the paperwork to do so 12/22 and 12/23. 12/26 I was told everything was all set. Yesterday I learned the upgrade was stuck, and today I learned they wouldn't be able to upgrade my account in time to gift the securities this year!

They told me if I mailed the gifting securities form by 12/15, I should have it completed by Christmas week at the latest I've called them every day since Fri., and spent about an hour on the phone w/them each day. I am so frustrated by the misinformation and attitude I've received I'm thinking of moving my money elsewhere, as I don't know if they can keep track of my money or perform transactions correctly in the future.

I also have accounts at Fidelity. Although they can be pushy about rolling over my 401k into an IRA, and bringing all my money there, at least they've never told me anything inaccurate.

Thanks!

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Re: This is Unbelievable - another Vanguard customer support odyssey

Post by Earl Lemongrab » Fri Dec 29, 2017 2:21 am

unclescrooge wrote:
Wed Dec 27, 2017 8:51 pm
Ah, you've found the elusive free lunch!
Free lunch? I get them to pay me to eat their lunch.

The Final, Definitive Thread on Brokerage Transfer Bonuses
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Re: This is Unbelievable - another Vanguard customer support odyssey

Post by eucalyptus » Fri Dec 29, 2017 12:54 pm

We have invested with Vanguard for many years.

After another bad experience today, I don't dare trust Vanguard with any account I might need help with someday.

My elderly father needs to resign as trustee of a trust for my daughter. Vanguard cannot accomplish this task.

More and more of our money is moving elsewhere.

Vanguard, pretty clearly, doesn't care about any of this.

As someone else mentioned, the nice people at the local Fidelity office will be happy to assist me with any request.

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Re: This is Unbelievable - another Vanguard customer support odyssey

Post by david99 » Fri Dec 29, 2017 1:01 pm

I transferred a 403b to a TIRA at Vanguard this year and I didn't have any problems. I didn't do anything complicated ----- I just transferred the entire amount to one fund.

eucalyptus
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Re: This is Unbelievable - another Vanguard customer support odyssey

Post by eucalyptus » Fri Dec 29, 2017 1:08 pm

KSActuary wrote:
Thu Dec 28, 2017 2:27 pm
Work with Vanguard quite a bit and they will tell you that they have a difficult time keeping certain online clients due to perceived poor service.

To my ears, this sounds like client blaming. I work with a lot of financial institutions online and by phone and have difficulties only with Vanguard.

It's not "perceived" poor service, it's quite real, at least in my case. This longtime Flagship client is looking for alternatives.

Again, I suspect an individual (or many more) unhappy client is not worth much bother. Vanguard's numbers are too big. Easier just to let clients go. That's life today.

2015
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Re: This is Unbelievable - another Vanguard customer support odyssey

Post by 2015 » Fri Dec 29, 2017 2:25 pm

eucalyptus wrote:
Fri Dec 29, 2017 1:08 pm
KSActuary wrote:
Thu Dec 28, 2017 2:27 pm
Work with Vanguard quite a bit and they will tell you that they have a difficult time keeping certain online clients due to perceived poor service.

To my ears, this sounds like client blaming. I work with a lot of financial institutions online and by phone and have difficulties only with Vanguard.

It's not "perceived" poor service, it's quite real, at least in my case. This longtime Flagship client is looking for alternatives.

Again, I suspect an individual (or many more) unhappy client is not worth much bother. Vanguard's numbers are too big. Easier just to let clients go. That's life today.
Nope. Not in my case. Never. Not once. Not a single time. No long wait times (I get through almost immediately, even on Monday or Friday mornings). All transactions are completed exactly as I execute them. Then again, virtually all of my transactions are executed online. Even were I to ever have issues, I can't imagine wasting my time sending a "secured message" and waiting for a response. I've never spoken to a VG rep that wasn't thoroughly knowledgeable. Then again, I don't call in that often because I don't have to.

In fact, my VG "odysseys" always surprise me. For example, yesterday, when calling in the day before the last business day of the year to execute roth recharacterizations, I got right through. Told I would have to be transferred to the recharacterization department with a 13 minute hold time, the actual time was half that, during which period I was most productive multi-tasking. The rep I spoke was thorough, knowledgeable, and extremely polite. Today, I check my orders, and all were executed exactly as I had directed.

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Re: This is Unbelievable - another Vanguard customer support odyssey

Post by Hayden » Fri Dec 29, 2017 2:35 pm

I too have had many issues with Vanguard, and thought the solution was Fidelity. Yesterday, I had a very bad experience at a Fidelity center where the rep filled out paperwork incorrectly and repeatedly provided incorrect information.

Sigh. I wish I knew the solution.

Lynette
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Re: This is Unbelievable - another Vanguard customer support odyssey

Post by Lynette » Fri Dec 29, 2017 2:39 pm

Absolutely no problems with Vanguard - ever. A few days a go I went to a Fidelity office and the pleasant but new lady was pretty clueless. I called the Fidelity office and waited about ten minutes and got a really knowledgeable rep. Surely this is not a Vanguard site - why complain about them here. I will likely consolidate my accounts and move them to Vanguard. I don't think having a dedicated rep is worth the effort.

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Re: This is Unbelievable - another Vanguard customer support odyssey

Post by KSActuary » Fri Dec 29, 2017 2:46 pm

eucalyptus wrote:
Fri Dec 29, 2017 1:08 pm
KSActuary wrote:
Thu Dec 28, 2017 2:27 pm
Work with Vanguard quite a bit and they will tell you that they have a difficult time keeping certain online clients due to perceived poor service.

To my ears, this sounds like client blaming. I work with a lot of financial institutions online and by phone and have difficulties only with Vanguard.

It's not "perceived" poor service, it's quite real, at least in my case. This longtime Flagship client is looking for alternatives.

Again, I suspect an individual (or many more) unhappy client is not worth much bother. Vanguard's numbers are too big. Easier just to let clients go. That's life today.
Whether client blaming or not, it does point to a possible flaw in using a vendor for advice/service, especially those investors with large account balances. My take away is that they want the assets but may not allocate enough resources for the issues that come with the client relationship aspect of accepting those assets.

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Re: This is Unbelievable - another Vanguard customer support odyssey

Post by Chicken lady » Sun May 13, 2018 9:17 am

Hello,

OP back to tie up loose ends. The supervisor with whom we were connected took care of all the IRA acct loose ends in a snap. She was unable to help with why the balance of the original 403B money was directed into the roth (conversion) acct since the 403B had been handed off to the other management entity. Getting that conversion right took several back and forth conversations and resubmittal of the paperwork which detailed the request (with a note that the paperwork had been revised and they wanted the request on the 'new' form.

So, everything was resolved ultimately. The Vanguard supervisor was very capable and made the necessary corrections quickly.

My conclusions?

Our transactions were initiated at the time Vanguard was least able to perform the actions without complications due to the separation of the 403B/401K management from Vanguard. Who knew?

Contact with numerous customer service reps on both sides of the divide (regular Vang and new 403/401 manager) revealed an overwhelming lack of skill and in some instances understanding of the products they were servicing. New staff is my guess - everyone has to learn though it was exasperating being part of their learning experience.

We are particular about how carefully orgs handle our money. We expect them to know what they're doing and to do it promptly without error. When those two conditions are not met, we expect quick correction. For all those who commented that we were asking Vang to do something complicated and the problem was us and our expectation that Vang could do what we requested efficiently - all I can say is that I guess we have different standards about the expected competence of the orgs that handle our money.

Thankfully, no problems since. Thanks to all for your comments.

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Re: This is Unbelievable - another Vanguard customer support odyssey

Post by MrPotatoHead » Sun May 13, 2018 11:35 am

Chicken lady wrote:
Sun May 13, 2018 9:17 am
Hello,

OP back to tie up loose ends. The supervisor with whom we were connected took care of all the IRA acct loose ends in a snap. She was unable to help with why the balance of the original 403B money was directed into the roth (conversion) acct since the 403B had been handed off to the other management entity. Getting that conversion right took several back and forth conversations and resubmittal of the paperwork which detailed the request (with a note that the paperwork had been revised and they wanted the request on the 'new' form.

So, everything was resolved ultimately. The Vanguard supervisor was very capable and made the necessary corrections quickly.

My conclusions?

Our transactions were initiated at the time Vanguard was least able to perform the actions without complications due to the separation of the 403B/401K management from Vanguard. Who knew?

Contact with numerous customer service reps on both sides of the divide (regular Vang and new 403/401 manager) revealed an overwhelming lack of skill and in some instances understanding of the products they were servicing. New staff is my guess - everyone has to learn though it was exasperating being part of their learning experience.

We are particular about how carefully orgs handle our money. We expect them to know what they're doing and to do it promptly without error. When those two conditions are not met, we expect quick correction. For all those who commented that we were asking Vang to do something complicated and the problem was us and our expectation that Vang could do what we requested efficiently - all I can say is that I guess we have different standards about the expected competence of the orgs that handle our money.

Thankfully, no problems since. Thanks to all for your comments.
In my opinion it can be illuminating to go to Glassdoor and read the comments employee makes about Vanguard. It fleshed out the picture for me, especially when I then invested the time to read comments from Schwab and Fidelity employees about their respective employers and compared and contrasted them.

I believe in the future, this is one tool I will use to evaluate a company before I conduct business with them.

Thanks for the follow-up.

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Re: This is Unbelievable - another Vanguard customer support odyssey

Post by tibbitts » Sun May 13, 2018 12:25 pm

MrPotatoHead wrote:
Sun May 13, 2018 11:35 am
Chicken lady wrote:
Sun May 13, 2018 9:17 am
Hello,

OP back to tie up loose ends. The supervisor with whom we were connected took care of all the IRA acct loose ends in a snap. She was unable to help with why the balance of the original 403B money was directed into the roth (conversion) acct since the 403B had been handed off to the other management entity. Getting that conversion right took several back and forth conversations and resubmittal of the paperwork which detailed the request (with a note that the paperwork had been revised and they wanted the request on the 'new' form.

So, everything was resolved ultimately. The Vanguard supervisor was very capable and made the necessary corrections quickly.

My conclusions?

Our transactions were initiated at the time Vanguard was least able to perform the actions without complications due to the separation of the 403B/401K management from Vanguard. Who knew?

Contact with numerous customer service reps on both sides of the divide (regular Vang and new 403/401 manager) revealed an overwhelming lack of skill and in some instances understanding of the products they were servicing. New staff is my guess - everyone has to learn though it was exasperating being part of their learning experience.

We are particular about how carefully orgs handle our money. We expect them to know what they're doing and to do it promptly without error. When those two conditions are not met, we expect quick correction. For all those who commented that we were asking Vang to do something complicated and the problem was us and our expectation that Vang could do what we requested efficiently - all I can say is that I guess we have different standards about the expected competence of the orgs that handle our money.

Thankfully, no problems since. Thanks to all for your comments.
In my opinion it can be illuminating to go to Glassdoor and read the comments employee makes about Vanguard. It fleshed out the picture for me, especially when I then invested the time to read comments from Schwab and Fidelity employees about their respective employers and compared and contrasted them.

I believe in the future, this is one tool I will use to evaluate a company before I conduct business with them.
Yes but we're all too lazy to do that. Please summarize.

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Re: This is Unbelievable - another Vanguard customer support odyssey

Post by MrPotatoHead » Tue May 15, 2018 8:46 pm

tibbitts wrote:
Sun May 13, 2018 12:25 pm

Yes but we're all too lazy to do that. Please summarize.
Hmmm...

The thing I noted is the positive comments about Vanguard are all over the place, in other words, little consistency, but the negative comments are relatively consistent.

Two things stood out to me:

01) A number of CSRs expressed they felt they were misled in the hiring process and greatly resented it.
02) Vanguard manages CSRs through intimidation, aka: the beatings will continue until morale improves.

In summary, in terms of CSRs, it came across as a sweat shop. But that is my interpretation. I would encourage you to read the various postings and draw your own conclusions.

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Re: This is Unbelievable - another Vanguard customer support odyssey

Post by UpperNwGuy » Wed May 16, 2018 12:57 am

MrPotatoHead wrote:
Tue May 15, 2018 8:46 pm
tibbitts wrote:
Sun May 13, 2018 12:25 pm

Yes but we're all too lazy to do that. Please summarize.
Hmmm...

The thing I noted is the positive comments about Vanguard are all over the place, in other words, little consistency, but the negative comments are relatively consistent.

Two things stood out to me:

01) A number of CSRs expressed they felt they were misled in the hiring process and greatly resented it.
02) Vanguard manages CSRs through intimidation, aka: the beatings will continue until morale improves.

In summary, in terms of CSRs, it came across as a sweat shop. But that is my interpretation. I would encourage you to read the various postings and draw your own conclusions.
What stood out to you in the comments by Schwab and Fidelity departing employees?
Retiree with a pension and a 60/40 taxable portfolio: Total Stock + Total Int'l + Total Bond + Interm Term Tax Exempt.

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Re: This is Unbelievable - another Vanguard customer support odyssey

Post by JamesSFO » Wed May 16, 2018 1:29 am

UpperNwGuy wrote:
Wed May 16, 2018 12:57 am
MrPotatoHead wrote:
Tue May 15, 2018 8:46 pm
tibbitts wrote:
Sun May 13, 2018 12:25 pm

Yes but we're all too lazy to do that. Please summarize.
Hmmm...

The thing I noted is the positive comments about Vanguard are all over the place, in other words, little consistency, but the negative comments are relatively consistent.

Two things stood out to me:

01) A number of CSRs expressed they felt they were misled in the hiring process and greatly resented it.
02) Vanguard manages CSRs through intimidation, aka: the beatings will continue until morale improves.

In summary, in terms of CSRs, it came across as a sweat shop. But that is my interpretation. I would encourage you to read the various postings and draw your own conclusions.
What stood out to you in the comments by Schwab and Fidelity departing employees?
After registering for Glassdoor, I took a look at the VG, Fido and Schwab reviews by employees and there are a lot of commonalities across all three companies about pros and cons. Ironically several Fido employees talked about outdated IT systems... I did not conduct an exhaustive research but all of the phone reps at the companies seemed to feel overloaded, etc. So I'm not sure Glassdoor provides a definitive answer but YMMV on reviewing it.

t885
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Re: This is Unbelievable - another Vanguard customer support odyssey

Post by t885 » Wed May 16, 2018 5:38 am

Somehow I managed to transfer an IRA, Roth account for both myself and the wife, three separate accounts from TD and deposit OTC stock certificates with one phone call and a couple of mouse clicks.
Easy-peasy....
Unbelievably easy :sharebeer
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Index Fan
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Re: This is Unbelievable - another Vanguard customer support odyssey

Post by Index Fan » Wed May 16, 2018 7:52 am

I think average customer service in the business world as a whole is is poor.
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Re: This is Unbelievable - another Vanguard customer support odyssey

Post by bryansmile » Wed May 16, 2018 8:39 am

My experience with Vanguard lately has been perfectly fine.
A long long time ago though, when VG was my 401k provider, they messed up big time due to software glitches. My 401k contributions were stopped mid-year after I'd met the year's max, which was fine. But the next year, VG did not start the contribution. I didn't notice it until I got my W2 the following year. I guess I was partially responsible for not checking, but since my contribution election was unchanged all that time, I just relied on auto pilot.

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