RBS says it is returning ‘to normal’ but problems persist

25 June 2012

The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) group, which includes NatWest and Ulster Bank, says that it is getting ‘back to normal’ after working over the weekend to fix the IT problems that have dogged payments in and out since almost a week ago, but problems are persisting.

The retail bank group with 17.5 million customers opened 1,000 NatWest branches at 8am this morning and extended its opening hours until 7pm tonight, after yesterday opening its branches for the first time on a Sunday, in order to try and help customers clear the backlog of payments in and out of current accounts. The problems stem from the on-going failure of an overnight batch processing solution last Wednesday, which was caused by a software upgrade that went wrong. The RBS Group IT problems still do not appear to be fixed, however, as the failure enters a sixth day with some customers still reportedly unable to enter their online bank accounts or track payments. The large backlog of failed payments is also taking a long time to clear.

Some staff wages, some rent and mortgages remain unpaid, and numerous business payments are still stuck in the supply chain. RBS group insists that no fines will be levied for those going overdrawn and no one will lose money as a result of the catastrophic IT failure.

Stephen Hester, RBS Group chief executive, said in an online statement that he, “wanted to reassure customers that no one will be left permanently out of pocket as a result of this”, although it is not clear if the bank will compensate businesses for lost orders or other indirect losses.

RBS insist that the computer problem was fixed over the weekend, although tests are continuing they admit, giving credence to the reports on social media and elsewhere of on-going problems accessing current accounts and payments, no doubt exacerbated by the backlog and pent-up demand that has been building since last week. It is also possible that customers of the Ulster Bank unit of the group may have to wait until later in the week for a fax.

The longer the problems continue the more damage is being done to RBS’ reputation with potentially serious long-term repercussions. The compensation bill could run into many many millions as well, if not billions, depending on the outcome of any possible lawsuits for lost business.

The bank says that claims for reimbursement are being judged case by case in-branch at the moment, but many more cases will no doubt come to light in the following days and weeks. RBS has also promised to work directly with credit agencies to ensure no one has their credit score affected, if, for instance, the bank failed to make a credit card payment on time. Additionally it has doubled the number of call centre staff on duty.

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