Around 600,000 customers of Ulster Bank have been unable to access their online accounts and see details of deposits and withdrawals for nearly a month due to a computer glitch. A statement has been published on their website claiming that they expect everything to be up and running this week. The statement read, “We expect that services should begin to return to normal from Monday July 16.”
The initial problem was first felt by customers of parent company RBS. This soon spread and affected customers of NatWest and eventually hit Ulster Bank customers. Although RBS managed to fix the problem within a matter of days, it has been a different story for Ulster Bank customers who are still experiencing problems.
Sammy Wilson, Northern Ireland’s finance minister stated that the main reason why it has taken so long to fix the problem was because they have the largest backlog of transactions to deal with as they had to wait for the problem to be fixed with RBS and then NatWest. Wilson stated, “Technically the problem started with RBS, then moved to NatWest, then moved to Ulster Bank. It had to be fixed in that sequence, but because Ulster Bank was at the very end, they had the biggest backlog of historic transactions and it’s really getting the historic transactions back on to the system which has caused the problem.”
To put the problem in perspective, football coach, Tim Wareing, who holds a business account with Ulster Bank, has had problems with cheques being paid out twice and he hasn’t been paid since June. Wareing claimed, “We’ve had cheques that have been paid out twice. They have since been corrected but in terms of my own salary, I haven’t been paid since the end of June.”
Stephen Cruise, a managing director at Ulster Bank has released a statement on their website. Cruise stated, “Firstly, I want to say sorry for the disruption this technical issue has caused. I wanted to record this message to make sure our customers know how we can help, and reassure you that all our staff are working hard to put this right. Thank you for your patience and understanding. We’ve already helped 120,000 customers, extended the opening hours of many branches, trebled our call centre staff, and we’re updating our website regularly. We made a promise that no customer would be left permanently out of pocket and we intend to keep that promise.”
This latest episode demonstrates that even the largest of companies are vulnerable to problems which can lead to disastrous consequences. The importance of having a full proof backup and disaster plan in place is only emphasised by this case as the length of time it has taken for the problems to be fixed, could well cost Ulster Bank thousands of pounds and a number of customers.