In January 2006, thousands of TIAA-CREF customers experienced service problems with the financial services firm when attempting to transfer funds, withdraw funds, or receive distributions.
The company publicly blamed its problems on a tough transition from one computer system to another. This was the reason for my missing contribution that occurred during this period.
Since then, TIAA-CREF recycled their executive team and brought in new leadership, but technical problems persisted. One year passed, and visitors to Consumerism Community continued reporting their woes. On May 31, 2007 (almost a year and a half after the first major reporting of the issue), Joann wrote:
TIAA CREF has serious customer service problems and the problems detailed on this page are quite typical. Their call center operators are completely ill-equipped to deal with most customer problems. They have been going through a major system conversion for the last several years, and almost all problems are blamed on technical glitches beyond their control. It’s frustrating for those of us who have depended on TIAA CREF and don’t have other options.
A supposed former TIAA-CREF employee of eight years added this commentary in July 2007:
Forty-two percent of the employees have been there two years or less. Morale is extremely poor. It is no wonder that service is poor. Don’t blame the employees. When the current CEO came on board several years ago, there was a need for change and improvement. He seemingly had a plan. However, the execution has been dreadful… Both individual and institutional customers are pulling out their assets. Those of us who can’t are very worried about the future. It is astounding that the Boards of Trustees have let this continue.
The Chief Technology Officer (perhaps the individual responsible for computer system transition problems) was forced out of the company by August 2007, but apparently computer issues are still to blame.
Today, Red wrote in to say the following:
About two years ago, TIAA-CREF failed to deposit my monthly withdrawals for two months. I was told they were transitioning to a new computer system and having trouble. Evidently, they are still using this very lame excuse, because when my monthly withdrawal and directs deposit didn’t happen for July, I called and was told TC is “transitioning to a new computer system.”
In the back of my mind, I wonder just how fast TC wants to get my (and other’s) retirement disbursement out. I mean, is it not to TC’s advantage to hold onto our money just as long as possible (due to computer glitches, of course)?
In January 2006, my contribution to TIAA-CREF was missing. I asked for my contribution to be on a certain date and for the funds to purchase shares in a mutual fund. The date came and went, and no purchase was recorded. It was several weeks before they were able to record my transaction. Since the original date, the price of the mutual fund had increased. When TIAA-CREF eventually recorded the transaction, it was backdated to ensure I received the agreed-upon price for the mutual fund shares.
But I wonder if the same holds true for distributions. If they do not sell an investment as instructed due to a “computer glitch,” are they earning interest or keeping a profit on the funds held by the broker until they finally release the funds to the customer?
Regardless, I am not surprised that customer service representatives are still using the “computer system transition” excuse. How many transitions should a company experience over two and a half years?
Published or updated July 8, 2008.