Vanguard App’s Sudden Change Outrages Investors

Vanguard’s recent update to its Android app stripped the ability to trade plus other features, outraging investors who use it to buy and sell stocks, ETFs and mutual funds.


Angry Vanguard customers are taking to Alphabet‘s (GOOGL) Google Play app store to complain. They’re also downrating the app and offering tips to roll back to the previous version. The Vanguard app is now rated 1.9 out of 5 stars on Google Play.

The app, updated this week, adds the ability to log in with your fingerprint. But it takes away trading and other account management features for certain account types. Attempts to trade refer users to Vanguard’s website. The app says: “Account type is currently unavailable on this app.”

“The recent update removed 95% of the previous application functionality. Why even have an app if you need to go to the web to do anything?” wrote Benjamin Zelman on Google Play.

Vanguard’s ‘Update’ To App Outrages

The stakes are large. With more than $5.2 trillion in long-term mutual-fund total net assets, Vanguard is the largest steward of investors’ money in the U.S. It serves more than 30 million shareholders. It’s best-known for its wide menu of low-cost, no-load mutual funds.

And apps are increasingly the way more investors interact with their brokers.

Vanguard is also the top provider of ETFs, too. And it’s also a major brokerage as well, allowing customers to buy and sell individual stocks and ETFs, unless you’re using its new Android app. Trading in Vanguard ETFs and funds through other brokers is unaffected, including IBD’s Best Online Brokers.

But those who use Vanguard itself are hamstrung. It’s a rare misstep for a famously investor-friendly firm known for putting customers’ needs first.

“The company itself does great and is quite reliable, however the new app design is horrible. It took away my ability to quickly see all my stock prices, the daily change, and the total gain/loss all at once,” wrote Xavier Edgren on Google Play.

What’s Next For Vanguard App

And if you download the app now from Google Play, it appears some users get an older version.

Vanguard says the app update is part of modernizing its user experience.

“Clients can easily scan all of their accounts on the portfolio homepage and we’ve streamlined all transaction flows to make it easier to manage accounts. Over time, new features will be introduced,” said Vanguard spokesperson Karyn Baldwin in an e-mailed response.

“With the new app rollout, mobile users on both iOS and Android will be able to view and transact on their individual, joint, and retirement accounts, as well as view and transact on their 401(k) accounts,” Baldwin said.

But here’s the rub. “The app provides balances and information for other account types, such as mutual fund-only accounts, 529 plans, and Uniform Transfers/Gifts to Minors Accounts (UTMA/UGMA), but full functionality — including transacting and mobile check deposit — is not available.”

Follow Matt Krantz on Twitter @mattkrantz


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