“Smith Barney, Why do you hate your customers?” A Play by JD

by Johnny Debacle

A tale of dinosaurs in the age of robots.

“For the customer, who doesn’t enjoy high levels of service and has no respect for their money, Financial Management Account, by Smith Barney”

Smith Barney Does Not Rule

JD: I have a brokerage account with you. A relative used to work there and having a live broker helps for things like buying producers of Japanese toilets or Russian Petroleum on their native exchanges rather than illiquid domestic ADR’s.

Smith Barney: Yes, I am a well-known, venerable brokerage house, built upon the philosophy that customers should be rich, have low expectations and a deep self-hatred.

JD: You are a remarkably mediocre brokerage. You are more expensive than my pal Ameritrade, yet you make everything more difficult and less convenient. You are never galling but consistently incalcitrant. Would a customer like to receive their documents by email? They should expect to receive a link to their document by email, and have it not even work half the time. Does a customer want to have one account number? They ought expect to have Smith Barney CHANGE the final digit on you due to some unannounced internal transfer causing the customer to run around not being able to log in. For you, Smith Barney, it is a privilege for me to be able to look at my account online, like it’s 1997 and real time observation of my portfolio is a gift.

Smith Barney: Smith Barney Access has been named the #1 overall website among Full Service Brokerage firms for the sixth consecutive time, by the semi-annual Watchfire GomezPro Scorecard, for fourth quarter 2005. Watchfire GomezPro Scorecards measure the quality of online financial services offerings, with predominant focus on ease-of-use, customer confidence, onsite resources, and relationship services. Unfortunately, it appears as Smith Barney Access has been named the #Crap overall website by Johnny Debacle of Long or Short Capital.

JD: Let me tell you a story, Smith Barney. Last week, I decided to buy Quicken to tidy up my personal finances. Smith Barney, you don’t have any downloadable Quicken or MS Money files or anything at all, outside of PDF’s. I searched and searched and found that the only way I could get access to Quicken ready account statements, with their QIF’s and OFX’s and what not, was by upgrading to a Financial Management Account.

Smith Barney: The cornerstone of your investment relationship with Smith Barney, the Financial Management Account (FMA®) allows you to consolidate, manage, monitor and access your cash and other assets, simply and conveniently.*

JD: …And it costs $100 per year (on top of already expensive fees which I pay) and offers nothing that Ameritrade doesn’t provide gratis. Smith Barney, why would I want this? Why would I want an extended business relationship with you, who has demonstrably shown to me that everything you do is convoluted, user unfriendly, and limited? I’m a twentysomething living in the digital age and I don’t want to have worry about things that should be taken for granted. You make money off the trading I do with my money. $100 means nothing compared to the unduly non-monetary transaction costs you apply to everything. How do you not see that it’s in YOUR interests, not mine, to make it as easy as possible for me to trade and to manage my trades?

Smith Barney: Plastics.


*Except when compared to every other brokerage.

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  1. April 20th, 2006 | 4:16 pm

    Hey LorS,

    In response to a comment you left me a while ago and finding my link to your site here: http://longorshortcapital.com/dividend-policy/ I’ve updated my links (about a month ago).

    I believe that it’s in the best interest of LorS to take me off the hit list – maybe even add me to the list of people who eventually got the message and updated their links.
    The truth is I was in Mexico while your site changed and cared more about sunlight than correct links – please accept my apologies in this matter. But ask yourselves this: wouldn’t you like to have corporate links to someone who can afford to ignore important changes such as Long or Short Capital growing because he was on a trip to Mexico? I hope that I’m making my point clear.

    I look forward to reading your next posts. Since learning about your site, I have earned at least three meals worth of ‘personal investment’ from sources outside of my direct family, and gained 1.2 kilograms. Our economy requires long-term, consistent growth – eat a cheeseburger for the team!

    May your wisdom exceed your wealth,
    Smaj, Canada

    Ps. I’d really like to invest in dinosaurs – they became oil, didn’t they?

  2. April 20th, 2006 | 5:10 pm

    Haha, that’s awesome. I hate Smith Barney so much; we were forced to use them for our employee stock options at a previous job, and the reps were openly hostile towards us. I mean, angry and obstructive, not just incompetent.

  3. April 21st, 2006 | 5:12 am


    It’s a good thing to be listed — you aren’t on any hitlist, we just linked to people who had linked to us. As a way of remembrance and tidings and love. Although if we had known you were Canadian, we probably would never have linked to you in the 1st place.


    I would file Smith Barney’s brokerage business under “Dinosaur” or “For Dinosaurs.” I’m not sure which. Although they do get credit for making it easier to buy securities listed on the Estonian stock exchange than E*Trade does.


  4. Gary Margolis
    October 17th, 2007 | 2:42 am

    I purchased some stocks at citibank approx ten years ago the fees were reasonable for that time but this week I went to sell and the costs were over $400 dollars for $13000.00 The girl said that the costs were high due to there being a full service brokerage,well I purchased the same stocks years ago from another brokerage and sold the same day as the smith barney transaction it only cost $85.00 and some change for just about the same amount,Thank You E*TRADE And goodbye CITIBANK-SMITH BARNEY.

  5. linda
    July 15th, 2008 | 1:53 pm

    Smith Barney is horrible. I am the beneficiary of an IRA and they will not distribute the IRA. There is no legal reason why they will not distribute the IRA. They have held the IRA for four months. Death certificates have been filed. There is no pending lawsuit; but they will not distribute funds. This is tantamount to highway robbery. They are earning management fees and interest from the account. An account in which they have no authority. They are crooks.

  6. October 20th, 2008 | 1:10 am

    @ 7

    It might not be a concerted effort not to distribute. Brokerage back and middle-office operations are, in some areas, so fantastically nightmarish, so disorganized, and held so un-accountable, that sometimes simple things take 10x plus as long to get done as you’d think.

    Call them up and ask them why they won’t distribute. Get specific answers, and make sure to ask them what they’d need from you to distribute.

    Generally, they’d need to have original documents on file signed by the IRA account owner (now deceased) naming you as a beneficiary, death certificate, and their internal distribution forms. Once they’ve determined you are a beneficiary (and what % of the account you’re entitled to) and you’ve accurately filled out their required documentation they shouldn’t take long to get the distribution processed.

    Hope that helps.