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Customer Service Experience Vanguard vs. Schwab and Fido
Old 01-26-2021, 11:32 AM   #1
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Customer Service Experience Vanguard vs. Schwab and Fido

I'm sure there are any number of old threads about this topic but it would appear that things have changed significantly of late, based on my own experience and posts on the Bogleheads forum.

Like many others here who admire Jack Bogle and Vanguard's history I've tended to view them as my default choice but long ago decided to keep a chunk of assets at Schwab both as a hedge against cyberattacks possibly causing short-term lack of access to funds and because we were traveling a lot and Schwab Bank's worldwide reimbursement of ATM fees when using their debit card was very appealing.

Yesterday it took over 2 hours for Vanguard to return a phone call, which (from reading other reports) sounds like it has become the new normal. Voyager or Flagship status, which used to offer perks including a separate telephone number and dedicated reps, now mean nothing. Meanwhile a call to Schwab this morning was returned within 5 minutes - with an apology for the long wait. I'm trying to figure out why a company with 6.2 trillion dollars in assets and zero brick-and-mortar offices has vastly inferior customer service (and an absolute joke of a website) compared to one of its key competitors. And I understand Fidelity is as good or better than Schwab in most respects.

Would appreciate any feedback from others here. At this point I'm thinking of keeping only Admiral shares I can't buy at Schwab at Vanguard and moving everything else. Heck there's not even anyone at Vanguard to complain to!
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Old 01-26-2021, 11:45 AM   #2
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So, I once moved all to Vanguard and after a few years of poor service and access I decided to try Schwab. I had accounts at Fidelity for years. Within a year it was clear to me that most efforts/advice from the local agent were sales pitches and specific questions like risk on derivative notes were never answered. Schwab was not bad, they were local, but limited on real good advice. I found Fidelity to be more upfront. They answer the phone, and provide me real services. When a wire transfer is more than 30K, I can simply call them and they take care of it right now, no paper work. This is impressive and convenient, even though they too have an office a few miles down the road. I held Admiral shares with Fidelity, no problem, but they do charge a fee for mutual funds. I have slowly sold and upgraded to other Fidelity funds and ETF's.

Overall, between the three I would choose Fidelity over Schwab, and avoid Vanguard. I hate being put on hold, not called back, and having to use slow mail to do anything of any value. The lack of physical store front with Vanguard was a real issue at times.
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Old 01-26-2021, 12:18 PM   #3
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Fidelity has been awful recently. I stayed on hold 45 minutes to an hour twice in the past couple of months.

We use E*Trade primarily, and have never had that experience. But also, I very very seldom need any phone support from anybody.

When I was managing 401K plans for different companies, there were never complaints about Schwab.

I would shy away from Vanguard just because their brokerage operations appear to be behind the others in terms of user friendliness and capability.
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Old 01-26-2021, 12:23 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by kevink View Post
Yesterday it took over 2 hours for Vanguard to return a phone call, which (from reading other reports) sounds like it has become the new normal. Voyager or Flagship status, which used to offer perks including a separate telephone number and dedicated reps, now mean nothing.
I've been with Vanguard for 15+ years, have been Flagship for nearly 10 years, and have not experienced the poor level of customer service you described. Whenever I've had a question or needed to discuss something with them, I made an appointment using their online scheduling tool, and then my rep would call me exactly at that time. Even though the feedback and advice they provided has been fairly basic, it's always been helpful and thorough enough to address my concerns or questions. Honestly, I wouldn't have expected much more than that, considering that they can't provide CFP-level investment or tax guidance.

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Heck there's not even anyone at Vanguard to complain to!
Not true, in my experience. The reps I've spoken with over the years have been receptive to complaints and suggestions for improvements. However, in all honesty, I haven't have many complaints. I genuinely like the Vanguard platform and find it to be entirely adequate and user-friendly in most respects.
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Old 01-26-2021, 12:23 PM   #5
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... Would appreciate any feedback from others here. ...
Well, as I have said before, we are not at the end of the opera that began with the mutual fund price wars. Externally we are seeing mergers and acquisitions. Internally, these brokers are still trying to figure out how to make money from their customers, something that they have to do.

I have been a happy Schwab customer for a long time. The only thing that has splashed on me so far is their new sweep policy to Schwab Bank FDIC savings paying a pittance. I do expect that they will get more aggressive on the sales side, especially pitching managed accounts. My rep is well enough trained to not bother me with that stuff.

From the buzz here, it sounds like Fido may be getting more aggressive on the sales side. Also maybe they have cut headcount in the customer service call centers.

VG, I don't know, but they have the same problem.

But it ain't over until it's over -- maybe another year or more before the new normal is established. Next week it may be Schwab laying off customer service reps. They also have the TDAmeritrade deal to digest, with unknown consequences.

So I'd be sitting tight and watching the opera carefully. YMMV, however.
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Old 01-26-2021, 01:54 PM   #6
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Thanks for the great feedback everyone!

Note that in the race to the bottom for fund ER’s which of course started with Vanguard they’ve removed all the perks of Voyager and V. Select status, presumably in order to push their Personal Advisory Services.

http://https://investor.vanguard.com...ts/at-a-glance
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Old 01-26-2021, 02:18 PM   #7
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No real interactions with them for about two years now, but before that I've always had excellent phone service from both Fidelity and Schwab. I gave up on Vanguard some time ago due to their horrible, horrible service.
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Old 01-26-2021, 03:03 PM   #8
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I have been with Schwab since 1979 and have been very satisfied. I do not contact them often, but when I do they respond quickly and usefully. Most recently they helped a low-balance (140k) friend consolidate about a dozen old 401ks, IRAs, stock certificates, and after-tax accounts in just a few days with minimal interaction.
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Old 01-26-2021, 03:36 PM   #9
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A timely post as my wait time just went past 29 minutes ...


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Old 01-26-2021, 03:43 PM   #10
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The one compelling thing VG has going for them is availability of Admiral shares. Can't get either Wellesley or Wellington Admiral at Schwab or Fidelity, far as I know.
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Old 01-26-2021, 03:49 PM   #11
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We are private client at Fidelity. I sent an email to our rep at 11 am this morning regarding where I would find my returned RMD $ on out tax info and had his answer by 12:45pm TODAY. BTW, if others are wondering it is own your 5498 under rollover.
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Old 01-26-2021, 03:58 PM   #12
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50 minutes and counting ...
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Old 01-26-2021, 04:10 PM   #13
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A timely post as my wait time just went past 29 minutes ...
With who?
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Old 01-26-2021, 04:26 PM   #14
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The one compelling thing VG has going for them is availability of Admiral shares. Can't get either Wellesley or Wellington Admiral at Schwab or Fidelity, far as I know.
This is true - and it's the main thing that will have me keeping a chunk of our assets at Vanguard. Spoke to the Schwab rep about this very issue today and the Admiral share class of those funds shows up as "institutional" shares on their screens, meaning that while Vanguard might let you transfer such shares over to another brokerage you could only sell shares subsequently, without the option of ever buying additional shares.
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Old 01-26-2021, 04:40 PM   #15
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Earlier today I noticed delays with Schwab accounts online displaying data, and these days there always seems to be a warning about unusual wait times for support and other features.

So there are problems with Schwab. I've had two online chats recently with their support, and it did take over 15 minutes to get a CS rep. But after that everything was smooth going.

We are also thinking of moving a tax-free bond fund from Vanguard to Schwab. That will close out Vanguard taxable account, and I'll have one less "convert to brokerage" alert from Vanguard.

15 years ago we had over 75% of assets at Vanguard. Today the total is 35-40%. Our total assets at Vanguard are growing, and I really don't think they care a bit that I steadily increase business with Schwab. I look at this as having the best of two worlds. Vanguard is fine unless I want to do something (LoL).
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Old 01-27-2021, 10:18 AM   #16
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Keeping Admiral Shares at Schwab isn't a big stretch. You can buy Admiral shares of Index funds at Schwab and if you have at least $1M, you can do it without a fee. For actively managed Admiral shares like VWIAX, I buy at Vanguard but then transfer to Schwab. The transfer process can be done completely online without paperwork or cost.
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Old 01-27-2021, 10:26 AM   #17
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In my personal experience of doing business with all three, I would say: Schwab and Fidelity are pretty close, Vanguard clearly poorer customer service. For Website, Fidelity >> Schwab >>>> Vanguard.
That said, I think even Vanguard is workable as long as you are not a particularly "needy" customer. You do make a good observation about having no physical offices and STILL lagging behind in phone/online service. In the old days, the excuse used to be that their fees were too rock-bottom for "bells and whistles", but the other two have long since matched (and even surpassed) Vanguard on fees.
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Old 01-27-2021, 10:28 AM   #18
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I am in the middle of evaluating several brokerages because I am also moving my IRAs and after tax accounts away from Vanguard. I don’t care about phone service, but they better have modern, secure, available systems with all the features I want, plus either chat or email support.

So far today, Vanguard and Ally Invest have both failed the systemic stress test of today’s market blips (systems unavailable). Fidelity has remained up for me, although I understand some of its customers may have had outages. Interactive Brokers and Robinhood (which doesn’t offer IRAs) did stay up so far. So far, Fidelity is unexpectedly in the lead to get my $$$.
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Old 01-27-2021, 10:30 AM   #19
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The opera continues as Schwab begins to integrate TDAmeritrade. https://www.investmentnews.com/schwa...loyalty-201911

Typical engineering problem now for investors: The input signal is changing faster than the output can be changed.
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Old 01-27-2021, 10:35 AM   #20
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So does anyone think that the callback centers at Vanguard, Schwab, Fido and others prioritize the callback list based on some back office algorithm like attained level of service, having a personal advisor, gross assets, number of calls made in the past, etc? Or do you really think it is first call in gets the first callback?

Bear in mind that this time of year is a busy time for all with end of year rebalancing, tax season, end of year bonuses needing to be invested and such.
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