Imagine the following scenario: You have a short list of stocks you are interested in and would like to own the stocks when they hit some predetermined levels. You’ve been patient and keep plenty of cash around for what Buffett would call “the perfect pitch”. A few months pass and sure enough, the markets are in turmoil and your stocks are hitting your strike price. You want to buy and try logging into your account but you are unable to access your account and perform any trades. You try and reach a broker on the phone but since other clients can’t access their accounts either and are trying to reach customer service, phone lines are clogged. You face wait times of close to an hour and you may be out of luck if you wanted to make a trade at the end of the day.
That’s what clients of BMO InvestorLine faced on May 25th and 26th. BMO said it was experiencing “technical glitches” and was sorry for the “inconvenience” but it took two days for normal operations to resume. As a goodwill gesture, BMO InvestorLine says it is charging $9.95 per trade for all clients for trades executed while the glitches persisted and also offering two free equity trades in June but some clients may feel the gesture to be very small compared to the opportunity cost of the outage.
BMO InvestorLine may have been the latest but it is certainly not the only discount broker to experience temporary problems. Clients at TD Waterhouse and RBC Direct Investing have experienced website outages in the recent past. Investors may not be able to do much about these intermittent website problems at discount brokers but it is something to be aware of.