Last Friday afternoon at about 1445 London time, the bank HSBC and First Direct, a division of HSBC, suffered a UK-wide system failure that took out on-line banking and many of their 3,700 plus ATM machines for about two hours. Many debit card transactions also were affected, HSBC stated in a press release.
According to a report in the BBC, the cause of the problem was traced to a faulty server.
The BBC story said that in addition to making on-line banking inaccessible,
"Customers with other banks were unable to use HSBC ATMs, and HSBC cardholders could not use other banks' cash machines."
A related story in the London Guardian says that HSBC has 15 million customers in the UK, many of whom were unhappy about the outage, coming at one of the busiest banking times in the UK.
Then, coincidentally, an overnight system maintenance problem at the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and NatWest Bank (which was taken over by RBS in 2000) meant that for most of Saturday their combined 15 million UK customers could not use the banks' on-line or telephone banking systems, a story in the London Daily Mail reported. In this case, the banks' ATM systems were working normally.
However, the Daily Mail story also stated that:
"Customers could not check balances or transfer money between accounts, which were also not updated with payments made overnight. As a result, some customers could not use cash machines because their accounts were showing empty or said they were above an overdraft limit."
A report in Sky News dated around 1100 London time today (Sunday) stated that most of the issues were resolved by late Saturday night, although some issues with telephone banking continued into today.
Robert N. Charette is a Contributing Editor to IEEE Spectrum and an acknowledged international authority on information technology and systems risk management. A self-described “risk ecologist,” he is interested in the intersections of business, political, technological, and societal risks. Charette is an award-winning author of multiple books and numerous articles on the subjects of risk management, project and program management, innovation, and entrepreneurship. A Life Senior Member of the IEEE, Charette was a recipient of the IEEE Computer Society’s Golden Core Award in 2008.