Northern Ireland: banking on recovery? - Northern Ireland Affairs Contents

9  Bank IT failures

98. Since 2012, Ulster Bank has suffered two major IT failures; in June 2012 a system failure prevented Nat West, RBS and Ulster Bank customers from being able to access their accounts into late July, with ongoing issues stretching into August. Then, in December 2013, Ulster Bank customers experienced more payment and account problems just days after many customers were unable to access online systems or use bank cards for payments.

99. In the memorandum submitted by IBOA, it was stated that:

    Northern Ireland may also suffer in terms of the quality of investment in its economic, commercial and social infrastructure. Northern Ireland may not rate highly in either strategic or operational priorities-as Ulster Bank's customers will readily testify when a temporary IT glitch for RBS and NatWest customers became an IT meltdown for Ulster Bank-lasting weeks.[85]

100. Commenting on the IT failures, Sam Woods, from the Bank of England Prudential Regulation Authority, said, in January 2014, that:

    ... this is a very difficult area, not least because the IT systems are so antiquated. Although I feel we are making progress—for instance, the breakdown that RBS had shortly before Christmas did not escalate to the same level of issue partly because of the remediation that has been done following the June 2012 incident—I feel we are, I am afraid, a very long way from being able to sit here with confidence and say, "UK, including Northern Ireland, banks' IT systems are robust."[86]

101. The 2012 and 2013 incidents were not the end of the matter, as there were further problems in April 2014, when some Ulster Bank customers reported that ATM withdrawals had been debited from their accounts twice.

102. It is clear that banks' IT systems are not fit for purpose, and this has led to the totally unacceptable situation of some customers being unable to access their accounts, or experiencing other problems, since 2012. With a turnaround in the situations of all Northern Ireland's banks, whereby they have now returned to profit, we believe that some of those profits should be used to update their IT systems, thereby benefitting their customers.

103. On 10 April 2014 the Assembly's Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment held a meeting with the Ulster Bank during which the report on the "IT glitch" was discussed. During this session Jim Brown, Ulster Bank's Chief Executive, said that the FCA and the Bank itself had completed investigations into the IT failures and would publish their findings once "the regulatory negotiations had been completed".[87] We understand, however, that, since then, there has been no further correspondence to indicate that the report has been published, or may be published in the future. The public were badly let down by Ulster Bank, and we believe, therefore, that either Ulster Bank, or the FCA, should publish its report into the Bank's "IT glitch" without any further delay.

85   IBOA The Finance Union (BNI0015) para 2.3 Back

86   Q482 Back

87   Northern Ireland Assembly: Official Report (Hansard), Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment, 'The Future of Ulster Bank: Ulster Bank', 10 April 2014  Back

previous page contents next page

© Parliamentary copyright 2015
Prepared 16 March 2015