RBS muddles through computer shambles

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The Royal Bank of Scotland and customers of its subsidiaries NatWest and Ulster Bank are getting back to normal after a software upgrade last Tuesday disrupted internal transaction processing.

With customers unable to make payments or get up-to-date balances, the bank’s share price plummeted nearly 10% as the scale of the problem emerged last week.

RBS chief executive Stephen Hester told the BBC: “There was a software change which didn't go right and although that itself was put right quickly, there then was a big backlog of things that had to be reprocessed in sequence, which is why on Thursday and Friday customers experienced difficulty which we are well on the way to fixing.”

The bank extended opening hours at 1,200 of its branches over the weekend an...

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About John Stokdyk

John Stokdyk is the global editor of AccountingWEB UK and AccountingWEB.com.


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27th Jun 2012 12:44

I'm certainly not - my balance has still not moved

We're still seeing no details for transactions on Friday, we rang up the NatWest telephone banking support looking after the Isle of Man Bank and they were able to tell us over the phone that the transactions were in the account, but they aren't showing in online banking.

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27th Jun 2012 12:47

Dear Mr Hester

1) Don't allow managers to insist that software updates are deployed on their "due date" despite inadequate testing.

2) Don't shed every person (perm or contract) in RBS that has a clue about the legacy systems architecture.

3) Don't use outsourcers that simply do not have a clue.

4) Implement a proper transaction based disaster recovery system.


Hope that helps.

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27th Jun 2012 13:11

Bonuses all round ...

Perhaps now is the time for performance related rewards for all concerned

Mr Hester was notably cagey when asked about this the other day - the old 'lets fix the immediate issue ploy', hoping the question would go un-noticed

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27th Jun 2012 15:07


I am sure they will justified in one way, or another.

Maybe it was a 'different department' that caused the problem ... or they will lose all their good staff to other banks ... and a few more 'justifications' spring to mind.

I think we can almost guarantee that bonuses will not be affected for any of the high earners.

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28th Jun 2012 12:06

Total Failure of Management ...

It is not really the fault of the IT Junior - yes he pressed the buttons and is a convenient scapegoat BUT management has failed (in the same way as Barings & Nick Leeson) and should pay the price.

At the very least I for one would expect to see UK management heads to roll and furthermore management generally across the board should start taking responsibility for their actions/in-actions - after all these guys collect a large enough pay packet, so either start earning it or resign

Assuming we are getting the right information, clearly there were no processes in place, or if did exist they were not followed

As for their 'rollback' ability - to compound matters it would seem as though the update was applied to backups as well so a 'quick' restore became impossible

So we have the perfect storm - mainly brought about by elementary avoidable errors. Who was in charge?

Lack of procedures or in adherence to themGoodness know what testing took place but if in line with the rest of the competence displayed - questionableIT junior implementing mainframe batch upgradeInexperienced person clearing all scheduling queue - what about backups?Update applied to live and backup systems - why?

Also what about the timing of an update in the weekly cycle - not with 1 days leeway before payday, benefits etc. and no time to recover

Someone needs to come clean about the whole issue and start being accountable - sackings would seem to be in order if what we are being told is the truth

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28th Jun 2012 13:28

Osborne didn't have anything to do with

it in order to push the u turn on fuel and the tax scheme that has several tory supporters in it from the front page? 

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28th Jun 2012 13:42

bonuses for the high earners....

i think this is what is known as 'double bubble'.....they have screwed up such that the share price goes down....then get paid their bonus (which in no way relates to performance) to whatever value in shares (so effectively buying more shares for the same bonus value) which can then be sold at a later date (when share prices have recovered) at a significant profit but with beneficial tax treatment.


Every cloud...... 

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By userajk
03rd Jul 2012 17:08

"getting back to normal"

John Stokdyk please note that Ulster Bank customers far from getting back to normal are as of 3 July still completely locked out of their accounts. Unlike Nat West, Ulster Bank has not yet processed the backlog of transactions and the official line today is that no estimated date can be given for this but it may be some time next week (3 weeks after the system crashed).

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05th Jul 2012 10:58

Ulster Bank is still a major problem

People who were due to be paid by employers last week have still not been paid.  Ulster Bank are now saying that it should be fixed in the week commencing 16 July but this is "an informed estimate rather than a certainty".  

In Ireland, statistics show that less than 1% of people have ever changed bank accounts.  It is clear that Ulster Bank customers will leave en masse as soon as they can.  The only ones that will stay are those who have credit facilities because they will not be able to get new facilities elsewhere very easily.  

They are under severe political and regulatory pressure in Ireland to compensate people and they are beginning to concede this, both for their own customers and affected customers of other banks.  

It sounds like a doomsday scenario but it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that the business of Ulster Bank in Ireland will be wiped out by the combined effects of loss of customers (i.e. a run on the bank) and compensation costs.  

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05th Jul 2012 11:34

Natwest still in a serious muddle


July 5th and items are still missing, receipts and payments, on a client's account running into £'000's. Told not to rekey so suppliers reluctant to send supplies and cashflow affected by customer items lost in the ether.  Current comment from Bankline support is "We don't know what is happening either but will let you know when we do.  

Not only does this show up the apparent incompetence of the bank it is in danger of bankrupting its own customers.

How long are we going to have to wait for this to be resolved?


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05th Jul 2012 12:46

RBS muddles through....
Years ago I had a temp job testing software for a bank. They got really fed up with me finding "class 1" errors (have to be fixed before roll out).

One day they said the error I'd found was not serious. My response: I borrow £1000 off you for one year. I pay nothing and come in to close the account after two years. You give me £1000 plus interest. I am only an accountant not a banker: how do you make a profit?

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