Don't even think about applying to TD

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Apr 10, 2008 7:04 pm

I’ve recently completed a (thankfully) very short stint at a TD Ameritrade branch office and at the risk of stating the obvious, would like to advise others on this forum not to do anything this stupid!

  There are numerous branch offices in metropolitan areas of the country or locations where a previous Waterhouse branch may have existed. These positions may seem beneficial if you're retired from a production capacity or just entering the industry. Like Fido and Schwab, many use a role of this sort to gain experience or get in touch with clients. Don't even bother. Here are a few of the many reasons why this is a bad idea:   -Back office. Every single department rivals the federal government in beaurocracy and incompetance. I've seen numerous seven-figure accounts take over a month to even have transfers (internal or acat) initiated. No matter how many times you call to follow up you will be told that it will be researched and someone will get back to you which will definitely not happen. Check deposits have been known to take well over a week to post. Certificates are constantly lost or posted late. Account bonus promotions never get posted on time. Etc. Etc. Etc. As a licensed rep you'll need to get "permission" (!) to perform basic activities from an unlicensed clerical employee in the back office.   -Compensation. While the base salary is competetive for industry peers in discount land (low to mid 40s depending on region of country) you'll never actually see your payout from assets brought to the firm. Your manager will have the ability to approve or not depending on the "influence" you've shown. If you start making too much money, a reason will be found not to approve large transactions.   -Product offering. There is only one product offering available, a proprietary managed money account comprised of ETFs. You will likely not be told the limited nature of what you can offer during your interview. You'll be told the firm has fixed income, etc. but not that you are unable to receive compensation on these items, or even sell them at all, referring the business to a department in another state. Given that this is the ONLY product you can offer, you would think it would be efficient to open? Nope. Bank on a three-meeting (phone or in person) process for an account opening and implementation that will bring you anywhere from $75 to a couple hundred bucks. No trails are available on this or anything else, but this is the least of your problems if you manage to stay over a year! This is an entirely hypothetical point since even if you do decide to put someone into this product, the aforementioned back office will screw it up in one way or another.   -Like many of the discount firms, 90% of your customer contact will be requests to discount or eliminate entirely fees of whatever kind. These clients are not viable candidates to transition to a full service environment as many have been indoctrinated (or were previously inclined) to see cost as the only value measure of a service provided. At least you'll enjoy watching them blow up their accounts with one hairbrained strategy after another.   -Front counter duty. I couldn't believe this aspect. Reps rotate once per week in offices where there is no front desk secretary or "client service specialist" which is soon to become all branches as this position is being phased out. You will have to wast 20% of your time (assuming a branch of five) sitting at a front counter taking check deposits or handling other walk-in issues of an administrative nature. This is one of the many things you will not be told during your interview.   Needless to say, I was out very soon and would highly advise others who for whatever reason are considering a TD Ameritrade branch office to look elsewhere, despite the somewhat positive reputation Waterhouse may have had as an employer in the discount arena.  I knew I'd be in a different environement from a full service or banking role (my previous experience in the industry) but expected something similar to Schwab or Fido.  While you shoud probably avoid the discount arena in general, if you must go this route (perhaps you enjoyed working for a competitor such as the above) you should do it somewhere other than TD. I know reps who have gone to Fido, Chuck, or a number of other discount platforms and loved it (to each their own) but have never met a single rep who had any sentiment towards TD other than relief for being done and disbelief at the incompetent, unprofessional, and in many cases unethical environment. 
Apr 10, 2008 7:17 pm

Yes icecold. The forum members are very smart not to be in this market! Just a side note, I hope my post didn’t imply a negative statement toward Schwab by putting them in the same category for comparison purposes. While I do not and have never worked there, it is my impression that if one must go to a discount firm this is the only legit one. I’m back to full service and couldn’t be more pleased.

Apr 10, 2008 7:26 pm

Good info, thank you.

Apr 10, 2008 10:13 pm

Where did you end up going?

Apr 10, 2008 11:14 pm

This makes Jones sound awesome!

I’m so proud

Apr 11, 2008 8:50 pm

TD used to have a full service dept.   This was before the merger,  TD Waterhouse.    Close friend of mine used to work there.   It was very transactional,  business consisted of bonds, closed ends, mutual funds, structured products,  but no fee based.    It was very sweat shop-esque.   Bunch of younger guys,  making a killing.  

Apr 11, 2008 9:22 pm

In fairness to those looking into RIA eventually, the Institutional division is quite different in service.  It should be a separate company.

Apr 12, 2008 5:27 pm

BACFA, I’m at a regional full service firm. Prefer to avoid specific one since it would out me. Regarding the institutional side, it’s ok as long as you never have to deal with the retail side by transfering or anything. Retail and institutional don’t like to talk to one another at all.

  One other thing I forgot is that you're not supposed to really say anything. If you come in with a CFP or other designation, they actually won't let you have it on your card or email signature because it would "imply that you are providing advice." The compliance department is so anal that they want the customer to "officially" invest their own items even in a managed account platform, which makes no sense at all. You basically open a "managed" account and they have to go in and push the buttons to take the recommendations themselves, which apparently avoids any liability from a suitability standpoint but ultimately just creates massive beaurocracy since clients sit in cash after a rep has opened their account without them implimenting it, at which point they're still getting charged a management fee.   As far as Scottrade goes for comparison, I've seen a lot of people leave for them. If you don't want to sell, all they do is take unsolicited orders and handle customer service issues. I don't see why you'd stay in the industry at all but everyone has a reason. I'd say not to go to either but if you have to one or another after relocating before finding a better position, avoid TD.   The full service department called WIC or Wealth Investment Center lasted as far as I know up until about a year and a half ago, at which point the employees arriving at the two or perhaps three locations of the center were met with armed security guards notifying them of their termination. Aparently people were making a lot of money for themselves and the firm (more than all 100 branches combined) but was shut down due to some shady deals that pissed off a lot of customers. They took Waterhouse public under ticker TDW (before Tidewater) at some price in the 30s which was CALLABLE (!) at some lower price around 15 if the stock didn't reach a certain point within a time period specified. I didn't even know you could have a callable common stock IPO but it did happen and a lot of customers attempted to arbitrate this, without much luck since event though it wasn't verbaly disclosed, the call feature was in the prospectus. The position of the firm is basically not to provide any proprietary advice at all, only 3rd party research, custody for RIAs who take their own liability, and managed accounts which the customer officially executes on their own. Neverytheless, customers get screwed in any number of ways like being charged margin interest with available money market funds in account, having their interest tiers drastically lowered without notification, etc.   A lot of people that I saw were "in transition" from getting cut from a wire and going someplace else. Some were just getting into the industry or retiring. A real estate/mortage guy I knew came there just before his two year deadline for keeping his licenses current. I believe he's bailed after a short period of time. Anyone who stays longer than a few months is not trying to make it in the industry at all, unless they're in management in which case they've invariable been fired from some other firm. (They had at least ten Schwab management flame outs...)   If anything I got some amusing memories out of the deal. It truly was a circus and confirmed my opinion that some industry stereotypes exist for a reason.
Apr 18, 2008 10:50 am

Your sentiments about TD are right on the money. But I would add two more reasons not to join TD. 1.) The clients are mostly stock traders who view TDA as nothing more than a second rate provider to their main firm like a Schwab or Merrill. Its a play account for them. 2) If you fall short of your quarterly goal, you are immediately put on a 60 day action planwhich says shape up or ship out. Nice long term thinking on the part of TDA. STAY AWAY FROM TDA

Apr 18, 2008 1:28 pm

the Investment Center is where my friend worked.   They just basically called on TD clients that tried to sell them bonds or mf's.    Most of the guys there did extremely well,   as I said before.