21 March, 2016

Why I decided to move all of my investments and banking out of Charles Schwab

I've been a Schwab customer for a very long time. I didn't put a whole lot of thought into the original choice, and am not even sure why I made it. But they were fine for a while. Then I added my banking to my investments, because they offered the convenience of free ATM usage anywhere in the world, at a time where that was not a common offering from a bank. For many years, this was fine.

But over the last few years, I have become increasingly disillusioned with the company, both in terms of their reliability, their services, and their commitment to delivering state-of-the-art online services. Finally, I decided recently that I would make the effort to extricate myself from them completely.

Here are some of the reasons that I am not satisfied with Charles Schwab as a banking and investment institution:

  1. There are almost no branch offices, and even if you go to one, they do not have all of the normal services you would find in a regular bank.
  2. I allowed them to "manage" my investments for a period of about one year, during a time where the market was doing extremely well. Schwab significantly underperformed the market. I could have done nearly twice as well by putting all of my investments in a single index fund.
  3. Their mobile app for Android has been unreliable for almost 2 years. The app crashes when you try to open it, and the problem has persisted across 2 Android operating systems, on 3 devices made by 3 different manufacturers. I can completely understand temporary crash issues, related to limited devices. But these were popular, new devices, and the problem has never been fixed.
  4. The usability of their website has become worse. The online bill payment used to be very straightforward, and the changes they've made in recent times have rendered it very difficult to use.
  5. The do not allow paperless transactions for some of their investment products, and I was receiving a flood of unwanted spam junk mail from them about one of my accounts. All attempts that I made to cease the paper statements were met with "I'm sorry sir, but there is no way we can stop sending you physical mail." This is the 21st century, so that is both ludicrous as well as incredibly wasteful.
  6. Their customer support has become less and less knowledgeable. It used to be that you'd contact Schwab and be speaking with a financial professional. Now, I feel like half the time, the support I receive is no different than when I call my cell phone company.
  7. It is difficult to view investment information combined across multiple accounts, which is another example of Schwab not measuring up to what their competition provides.
It wasn't until I took a look at some of the other companies out there that I realized just how far behind the times Schwab has fallen. A bank is a bank. Yes. The important thing is they don't lose your money. But beyond that, the next most important thing is the services they provide. At this point, unfortunately, I can no longer speak favorably about the services at Charles Schwab.