Wednesday, June 21, 2006

TD Ameritrade Outage Generates Outrage

Over the weekend, TD Ameritrade implemented a security upgrade as part of their integration campaign to bring together the Ameritrade and TD Waterhouse platforms.  Unfortunately, the upgrade caused new problems, some of which prevented a bunch of former TD Waterhouse customers from logging in to their accounts

As usual, what happens as soon as an outage at a large online broker occurs, Barron’s readers notify me of the situation.  The notification is usually worded in a business-like manner, but some of those affected get frustrated by long waits on hold at their broker, and just cut loose when they write to me. 

What happened with the upgrade, according to TD Ameritrade’s Donna Kush, was that the TDW customers were sent to a different login page.  At their former login, they could opt to store their user ID, but that was not automatically stored at the new site.  So folks who were used to having their computer enter that long string of numbers had to dig out the account number and type it in again.  And again and again, since the new system, for security purposes, doesn’t store their account numbers.

During the process TD Ameritrade also experienced what Kush calls “some technical issues,” which resulted in some former TDW clients not being able to log into their accounts.  Kush reports a backlog of customer support calls on Monday, but says that volumes dropped off Tuesday and today. 

Kush says that TD Ameritrade fixed the problem ASAP, is implementing a software change tonight, and will continue to monitor the situation.  “We expect that that will help improve the situation as soon as possible.  We’ve also contacted affected clients by email and phone to apologize and explain the issue.  We’ll continue to give them updates on the situation,” Kush says.

I took a look at some of the message boards that discuss TD Ameritrade at Yahoo Finance and saw a lot of anger.  I’m getting emails asking how long it takes to get an account moved to another broker.  That process takes long enough that it shouldn’t be done lightly or in anger, folks.  And some brokers charge a fee to move your assets away, though others will pick up the cost upon request.  Hmm.  Sounds like a good excuse for part of a column sometime. 

Posted by twcarey on 06/21 at 11:44 AM
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