There are conflicting stories coming out of the UK concerning the IT-related problem Barclays Bank experienced on Saturday afternoon. Barclays is Europe's sixth largest bank by market value.
According to this story in ComputerWorldUK, Barclays' customers were denied access to their accounts beginning about 1200 GMT. Customers were not able to use their debit or credit cards, access ATM machines or their on-line bank accounts. Telephone banking was also said not to work.
Barclays, which refused to say specifically what caused the problem or how many customers were directly affected (according to ITPRO, Barclays has some 1,720 branches and over 15 million customers in the UK alone), stated in the ComputerWorldUK article that its IT systems were restored in about 20 minutes.
This Reuters story, however, says that the problem hit about 1230 GMT, with complaints still being reported indicating that Barclays' on-line banking was still out at 1915 GMT Saturday.
Then this story in the Wall Street Journal reported that the IT problems were caused by a power outage. It also notes that, "It is thought the problems were associated specifically with LINK ATMs, the system that connects the U.K.'s ATM network, allowing customers from various banks or building societies to use other bank's machines."
The Journal article says that LINK processes some 1 million transactions every hour from 63,000 ATMs during peak times - like a Saturday afternoon. Barclays' customers were reportedly not very happy, especially concerning the lack of information coming out of the bank about what was going on.
A Barclays spokesperson, per usual, stated that, "We apologise to our customers for the inconvenience caused."
Why the Barclays feels the need to remain so closed-mouthed about the exact cause for its IT systems' failure has not been explained, however.
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.