Friday, September 29, 2006

TIAA-CREF computer problems

This article was recently published on the RISKS e-mail list ( Risks-Forum Digest Tuesday 26 September 2006 Volume 24 : Issue 44):
Date: Mon, 25 Sep 2006 14:34:00 -0400
From: "Peter D. Junger"
Subject: TIAA-CREF Payment Delays Because of New Computer System

On 6 Sep I faxed the paperwork to TIAA-CREF requesting a withdrawal from my retirement account expecting that it might take as long as a week before the money was wired to my account. It is now 25 Sep and I am still waiting.

I have spoken to several consultants about this problem. The first just said that it should not have taken that long and that he would see if hecould get it expedited. The next consultant was more forthcoming and said that the delay was caused by the fact that TIAA-CREF was installing a newcomputer system. (I had earlier been told in another context that the old system was written in COBOL back in the 1960s.)

Later consultants told me that as a University's account is transferred to the new system, withdrawal applications from retirees from that University have to be processed manually, rather than by the computer system. That strongly suggests that as more and more accounts are transferred to the new system the delays will get longer and longer.

There apparently has been no public announcement of this problem. (At least I found nothing in a Google search.) When I mentioned this to one of the consultants, she said that information that there was going to be aswitch-over to a new system was sent to account holders last year, but, when I pointed out to her that that announcement said nothing about delays, she said that she did not believe that they had been anticipated.

When I asked what happened to people who couldn't make a mortgage payment or something like that I was told by one of the consultants that TIAA-CREF was reimbursing people who had to pay late charges because of the delay. He didn't say what they did for people whose credit reports were damaged or those who lost a deal because they could not come up with a down payment in time or something like that.

One of consultants also told me that it might be six months before the switch-over to the new system was complete.

The consultants, who were all very considerate, all said that they had no contact [with] the people responsible for the actual processing of the withdrawal applications.