System glitches plague banks over the weekend

By Andrew Charlesworth
07 Nov 2011 View Comments
HSBC cash machine

As if dealing with imminent euro meltdown isn't enough, some of Britain's high-street banks have also been hit by a seemingly unrelated spate of systems spikes that resulted in customers being unable to access their accounts online or via ATMs.

The problems affected HSBC, RBS and NatWest customers over the weekend.

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"There's no evidence to suggest any of these problems are inter-related," a source close to one of the affected banks told Computing. "Banks' IT departments are under pressure to do more with fewer resources, it's true, but they are still better funded than many companies' IT outfits.

"But everyone under the age of 70 uses online and telephone banking, so it's highly visible," he added. "When it goes wrong, however minor, we all sit up and take notice."

HSBC's online banking systems went dark on Friday afternoon, along with some ATM services, as a result of what was said to be a mainframe problem. Customers also reported having HSBC-issued debit cards rejected by shops' systems.

RBS' and NatWest's problems struck a day later following an overnight IT systems upgrade. Consequently, customers experienced problems accessing their bank accounts online and via the telephone at the weekend.

RBS said the systems upgrade overran its allotted time, which meant account balances were not updated overnight and some customers were unable to withdraw cash from ATMs.

Account balances have since been updated and online and telephone banking services "are now running largely as normal" the bank says.

Ironically, Saturday 5 November was the final deadline for "Bank Transfer Day", a Facebook scheme organised by self-confessed "fed-up bank customer" Kristen Christian, who encouraged customers of conventional mega-banks to transfer their accounts to not-for-profit credit unions in protest against banks' shoddy service and high charges.

The US-centred protest received over 80,000 RSVPs.

Banking experts at consultancy Ernst & Young will tomorrow warn bankers they cannot rely on digital channels to recover profit margins diminished by the 2007 banking crisis, but should "work their branch networks harder".

Customers of Halifax/Bank of Scotland (HBOS) have endured a run of glitches since their systems were migrated to parent company Lloyds Banking Group in September.

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