Barclays is in the firing line after a relaunch of its trading platform, Barclays Stockbrokers, resulted in customers unable to log into their accounts.
Scores of Barclays’ customers took to a Citywire Money forum to air their complaints about the new ‘Smart Investor’ website, which combines Barclays Stockbrokers with online banking. The bank migrated more than 200,000 accounts to the new website over the August bank holiday weekend and faced a high volume of complaints through the course of last week.
A number of customers said they had not received their membership number and password, while others said they were receiving error codes when they tried to access their accounts. Customers then ran into further frustrations when they tried the helpline and were faced with queues ranging from 40 minutes to two hours. The new website’s ‘Live Chat’ function was also down.
‘Despite several letters reminding me what they were going to do, Barclays then failed to send me any correspondence with a Membership number and Passcode. I have now spent 30 minutes on both of the last two days waiting to try and get through to speak to them without success. I tried a Webchat with them and the response was so laughable that I gave up!’ said one disgruntled customer posting under the name ‘Windlesham Don’ on a Citywire Money forum last week.
As the week progressed, Barclays doubled the number of phone advisers to deal with the high volumes of calls and sought to bring the average wait time down. For customers who were unable to access their accounts online to trade, the bank offered an online fee tariff for all trades made over the telephone. This offer is still in place.
One customer – who posted under the name ‘DGL’ – asked whether others would consider joint legal action against the bank. A number of other forum users said they were looking into moving their portfolios, which in some instances were six figures, to other providers.
‘I’ve been with Barclays Stockbrokers since the Charles Schwab days (20 plus years) and am completely dismayed. I’m off with a £1.4 million portfolio. But as yet I’m not sure where! Any suggestions?’ asked ‘Freddie the Sheep’ on Thursday.
Another forum user – David Harmes – added: ‘I was on the phone for nearly two hours and still didn’t manage to speak to them. I have obtained information already from Hargreaves Lansdown and will probably move all my accounts over to them.’
Barclays Stockbrokers is the third largest online investment broker, after Hargreaves Lansdown and the recently combined Interactive Investor and TD Direct Investing.
As part of the overhaul, Barclays Smart Investor has introduced a new charging structure. Users now pay 0.2% on the money held in funds and 0.1% on other investments, such as stocks and shares or investment trusts. There is a minimum fee of £4 per month and a maximum fee of £125 per month.
Although its balance-based fees are less than the 0.35% administration charge investors in funds previously paid, they are accompanied by an online transaction fee that fund investors have not paid before.
Investors will now pay £3 each time they buy and sell a fund and £6 for other investments such as shares, investment trusts and ETFs. All automated regular investments will cost £1.
The new transaction charge facing funds investors makes Barclays better for ‘buy and hold’ customers who trade less fequently.
Customers who tend to invest or rebalance their portfolio on a weekly or monthly basis took to the forum to complain that their charges had gone up.
‘Not at all happy about the new level of charges, no wonder Barclays said that they were excited about the new website, so would I be with a mass of subscribers and the hefty increase in fees,’ commented ‘Drogue’.
Under the new tariff, customers who prefer to use the phone will be charged a transaction fee of £25.
Addititionally, the bank has lowered the overall maximum charge investors can pay from £1,749 to £1,500 a year.
Barclays had written to customers to provide advanced notice of the planned changes and to let them know that any limit orders would need to be put in place once again under the new system. Customers were offered the option to leave free of charge. Some clients who have chosen to leave complained of delays to this process.
‘I too am an unhappy Barclays Investor – currently trying to jump ship! Transferring out both my SIPP and ISA but Barclays are so overwhelmed with leavers they are on a go slow,’ said Jeffrey Hayward on the Citywire Money forum.
Others vented their frustrations about the new look and feel of the Smart Investor website, claiming they were struggling to see daily price changes, find the Excel download function and access contract notes on Barclays Cloud.
The overhaul also saw Barclays withdraw completely from offering international equity trading facilities. Customers with ‘International Trader’ accounts were transferred over to Saxo Capital Markets, unless they specified that they did not wish to transfer. Saxo had formerly provided a white-labelled service to Barclays for this service.
One poster summed up the mood with the following comment: ‘This new Smart Investor site is so bad in comparison to the old Barclays Stockbrokers site and their new administration so woeful that I can only think that Barclays are trying to get rid of their share dealing customers. There might be a regulatory reason why they have done this or perhaps it is just stupidity? My ISA transfer away from Barclays has just completed for which I am truly grateful.’
Rupert Dickinson, head of direct investing at Barclays, said: ‘We are doing everything we can to support our customers with the transition to the new service, including increasing the number of colleagues we have available to support with increased call volumes. We apologise for any inconvenience caused during this period of adjustment.’