Computer problems at Charles Schwab Corp. this week left customers wondering if their trades had been completed, the second time in a month that the giant San Francisco-based discount broker's computers haven't worked properly.
Schwab customers who placed orders on Wednesday through the company's phone or online services, as well as those who used representatives in the firm's offices, couldn't get information on their accounts or trades until the afternoon.
"The posting of information was unavailable or sporadic," said Schwab spokesman Tom Taggart. Still, "customer orders were filled at the time they were placed," even though customers didn't get immediate confirmation of their transactions, he said.
This week's problem followed another on June 11, when Schwab customers who use the broker's World Wide Web site had trouble trading online or getting account information. The glitches may herald greater problems as financial services firms offer customers the online access they want.
"This is not a trivial matter, especially in a world where you have broad-based usage by customers directly of technology and the Internet," said Bob Franz, a senior partner who specializes in technology issues at financial services companies for consultants Booz, Allen & Hamilton Inc. "The issues of reliability and security are at the forefront of everybody's mind."
Schwab's stock fell 43.75 cents to close at $41.125 on the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday.
Schwab customer Powell Grant said he placed an order Wednesday to buy 1,000 shares of Nevada Power Co. at $21.3125 through his computer. The stock rose to $22.50 following his order, and Grant couldn't determine by phone or through customer service if his order had been executed.
A customer service representative told Grant that the trading system was down because Schwab was completing an end-of-the-quarter reconciliation.
"I thought, 'Sure, you are shutting down the whole business while you count figures?' " said Grant. "I think their system is getting overloaded."
Spokesman Taggart said local phone company lines and a customer's computer modem can also contribute to problems.
To be sure, Schwab's recent glitch could happen to any securities firm, Franz said. "It has to do with their back-office systems, and they aren't any less or more reliant [than those] at any other firm."