Traders found themselves unable to use both Schwab's Web site and touch-tone telephone service. But the problem went beyond those two automated channels; even Schwab employees were unable to access user accounts or stock information during the outage.
"Think of our different channels as spokes in a wheel," said Schwab spokesperson Tom Taggart. "In this case, the hub went out."
Taggart did not know the cause of the shutdown.
During the outage, users were able to place time-stamped trades with operators by telephone or in person at Schwab's 275 branches nationwide. Under a company policy, users who have to wait more than five minutes to place a trade can place it at one of those branches free of charge.
Online trading firms came under fire last October and in some cases had to compensate users for delayed execution of trades placed over the Internet during unusually heavy trading.
As might be expected, Schwab's technical glitch this morning resulted in some irate customers.
"Charles Schwab likes to make noise about being the leading provider," said day trader Craig Johnson, whose morning trade could not be confirmed today because of the glitch. "But they didn't have enough backup to provide for what happened this morning. I'm going to be moving off Charles Schwab today."
In unrelated news, Schwab today announced its subsidiary Charles Schwab Europe is launching its online investing service in the United Kingdom.