The computer problems plaguingRBS Group banks including NatWest, Northern Ireland’s Ulster Bank, and the Royal Bank of Scotland are finally ending, according to news reports today. NatWest is saying that the technical issues have been resolved and that most bank accounts should be updated and back to normal by the end of the day on Monday, although there may still be “bumps in the road.” The same appears to be true for RBS account holders. However, the problems at Ulster Bank will likely continue for the remainder of the week, the BBC reports.
According to the Guardian, the computer problems, which have caused the longest and worst bank-related IT outage in UK history, were traced to a software update to RBS’s payment processing system that became corrupted. The software problem erupted last Tuesday night when millions of bank accounts across all three banks failed to be updated. However, according to this story at Computing.co.uk, the software glitch actually dates back to a week ago Friday. It may take some time before the true facts of the matter come to light, since the RBS Group is refusing to publicly discuss the exact cause of its computer woes.
NatWest, which last year saw complaints about its service rise 75 percent over the previous year, certainty hasn’t helped itself during its crisis. While the bank's CEO apologized to the its customers for “the inconvenience" to "some customers," Steven Hester waited a long time before making an appearance in public. The bank, which has been saying that the computer problems would not cost its customers anything out of pocket, also didn’t win any friends by urging customers with account problems to call its costly toll number for help. When questioned about it, the bank said that customers could later make a claim to try to get reimbursed for the cost of the call, although it didn’t tell its customers how to make such a claim.
NatWest also told customers of other banks that have been affected by the glitch to straighten out any problems they were having with their own bank. The UK Financial Services Authority "urged other banks to be 'lenient' with their own customers if they missed payments because transfers from RBS accounts had not come through," this London Telegraphstory reported. The story goes on to state that, "The banks have pledged to refund their customers, but only if they contact them directly and are able to prove they have been hit by the technical failure."
The FSA will no doubt take a look into the mess.
Another thing that must have irritated NatWest customers was that right through early this morning, NatWest had a small banner at the top of its website acknowledging customers' inability to access their accounts, while right below it was a conspicuous ad proudly boasting: “We have award-winning online banking. Does your bank?”
Not really a smart thing to do when your award-wining online banking system isn’t working. Sometime late this morning London time, someone at the bank must have noticed the discontinuity in its marketing message and all the website ads were taken down; the web page is now focused on the corporate apology for the mess and a customer FAQ list.
RBS Group announced today that it was going to keep 1200 bank branch offices open from 8am to 6pm for the rest of the week to help out customers. Branches were open over the weekend as well.
The final cost of the fiasco that the bank’s CEO said “should not have happened” could reach nearly 100 million pounds; not good news being that the bank is 82% owned by the UK taxpayer.
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.