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Bank of Montreal headquarters in Toronto

Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail

On the same day Bank of Montreal released glowing quarterly profits, thousands of its clients struggled with technical glitches that handcuffed the big bank's online brokerage service.

Amid a volatile week of see-saw stock markets, many BMO InvestorLine clients have been severely slowed and even pushed to the sidelines after the online platform began misfiring Tuesday morning. As of Wednesday afternoon, the problems still persisted, and the bank was unable to give an estimate of how long it will take to fix it.

"We're working on it," said BMO spokesman Nini Krishnappa.

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While Mr. Krishnappa characterized the service interruptions as "intermittent slowness," some clients who contacted The Globe and Mail reported that they often couldn't log onto the trading system at all - and even when they could, they had difficulty getting it to work.

BMO was quick to put up a message on InvestorLine's home page informing clients of the technical difficulties, and advising them to use the brokerage's phone service as an alternative. This resulted in lengthy waits to execute trades - anywhere from 30 minutes to more than an hour, clients reported - even though BMO added staff to handle the increased telephone traffic.

"I am very worried about how they treat there customers," wrote one client in an online comment posted to the BMO earnings story on "As an active trader, you wait for weeks for days like [Tuesday and Wednesday] Their response was 'we're sorry,' after it took 40 minutes to get a person on the phone."

"For the most part, clients have been fairly understanding," Mr. Krishnappa said. He noted that as a gesture to inconvenienced clients, InvestorLine is charging its lowest posted rate - $9.95 per trade - for all equity trades executed while the system glitches persist, compared with its standard fee of $29 for clients with less than $100,000 in their accounts.

Ironically, at a time when BMO's online clients were having trouble trading stocks, BMO's own stock was popular among buyers. The shares rose 2.6 per cent on the Toronto Stock Exchange Wednesday, after the bank reported a near-doubling of its fiscal-second-quarter earnings, to $745-million. The bank also unveiled eight new exchange-traded funds Wednesday.

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About the Author
Economics Reporter

David Parkinson has been covering business and financial markets since 1990, and has been with The Globe and Mail since 2000. A Calgary native, he received a Southam Fellowship from the University of Toronto in 1999-2000, studying international political economics. More

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