RBS and its NatWest subsidiary have suffered severe technical issues with their payment and banking systems with customers unable to access online or branch-based systems yesterday evening during one of the busiest pre-Christmas shopping days of the year.
The problems left many customers unable to access their cash or use their bank cards yesterday, mirroring a similar catastrophic week-long IT failure last year at RBS Group, although it appears a quicker recovery response is underway this time.
NatWest and RBS' websites, plus its smartphone applications, suffered IT problems on 2 December, as well as the aforementioned ATM and card payment issues which were widely reported on social media. The bank's entire online and mobile banking activities were hampered from late afternoon onwards yesterday and its scrambling to respond today. The bank insists that the problems have now been fixed, and all systems are working normally today so far.
The banking group does not believe that the IT problems it suffered were down to high levels of transactions in the UK on 'Cyber Monday', a busy pre-Christmas shopping day with millions of consumers hunting online bargins in the evening.
Ulster Bank in Northern Ireland, which is also owned by the RBS banking group, was "partly affected" by the same issue, it said in a statement.
The incident is the second time this year that RBS banking group has suffered widespread issues with its technology systems, not withstanding the catastrophic 2012 IT failure. In March 2013 hardware faults left customers unable to access their accounts. RBS is trying to rectify the situation by putting £700m into its aging IT.
The bank has confirmed in a statement that any customers left out of pocket by this latest IT problem will be helped by its staff and refunds will be available.
According to Neil Kinson, vice president EMEA at Redwood Software, the days are gone when business IT problems, such as RBS' latest failure, went largely unnoticed by the outside world. "Business processes are more connected than ever before," he said, "meaning a back-end failure can have a knock-on effect on frontline services. It's like a domino effect; a persisting failure in the billing department can lead to greater pressure on the provider’s website and call centres, as customers look to question the mistake.
"If large brands like RBS wish to protect their customers from the impact of IT failure, greater effort must be made to ensure business critical processes work efficiently 100 percent of the time."
By Gary Cooper and Neil Ainger