Thursday, June 22, 2006

TD Ameritrade Technical Glitch

The Wall Street Journal, Gaston F. Ceron, 22 June 2006

Changes intended to improve TD Ameritrade Holding Corp.'s online-trading Web site instead led to a technical glitch that prevented a number of customers from logging on to their brokerage accounts.

The changes, made over the weekend, were aimed at the "legacy" clients from TD Waterhouse, an online broker that was acquired recently by Ameritrade, said Kim Hillyer, a spokeswoman for the Omaha, Neb., company.

Ameritrade wanted to change the way the clients logged on to the Web site, to make it "more secure," but in so doing ran into "some technical problems," she said.

These problems locked an unspecified number of clients out of their accounts. Ms. Hillyer said Ameritrade has put in place "some fixes," but that it isn't yet "a complete solution." She said the company continues to work on a permanent resolution to the problems.

"Obviously, it's our top priority," Ms. Hillyer said.

Judging from Internet message-board comments, Ameritrade's problems have left some clients fuming. The company saw calls into its client-services team spike, and Chief Executive Joe Moglia has apologized to clients "who experienced a long wait this week" when telephoning the company.

"Today, the calls and wait times have improved considerably," Ms. Hillyer said. She also noted that clients can access Ameritrade in other ways, such as by dropping by a branch office.

The glitch is a black eye to Ameritrade's integration of Waterhouse. Problems after acquisitions aren't unheard of in the online-brokerage industry, as E*Trade Financial Corp. some months ago also stumbled in its integration of Harrisdirect, with higher call volumes hitting E*Trade and customers facing long wait times.