On the fourth day of a IT systems choke-up that has left customers unable to access money and in some cases unable to buy food or travel, Natwest and RBS – which both belong to the RBS group – still have no idea when the issues will be fixed.
A spokesperson said the banking group had been working overnight to fix the problems but that there was no precise timeline available: "We're going for as fast as possible," the spokesbod quipped.
A statement released mid-morning seemed to rule out the possibility that it would be fixed by the end of today:
We are continuing to experience technical issues with our systems, which is impacting a large number of our customers. As a result, money credited to accounts overnight may not be appearing on balances today.
RBS Group - which also runs Ulster Bank - stressed that the glitch was a purely technical issue. The screw-up has been pinned down to a flaw with payment-processing software, and primarily means that bank balances don't register inbound payments.
However, the knock-on effect means that a whole range of services seem to be unavailable too: customers also reported being unable to transfer money between their own bank accounts.
The RBS Group has promised that customers will not lose out financially: "We will ensure that no customers will be permanently out of pocket as a result." However many have already suffered big problems from the freeze-up in funds.
Back-end sorts have been weighing in with different opinions on what caused the crash. Michael Allen, director of IT service management at Compuware, said:
The problem is that IT systems have become vastly more complex. Delivering an e-banking service could be reliant on 20 different IT systems. If even a small change is made to one of these systems, it can cause major problems for the whole banking service, which could be what's happened at NatWest. Finding the root cause of the problem is probably something NatWest is struggling with because of the complexity of the IT systems in any bank.
The Queen has been unaffected by the glitches, for although Coutts (Her Maj's bank) is part of the RBS Group, it uses different, presumably superior software, that appears to work.
RBS has cut back on permanent IT staff in the past few years: trimming 1,000 people in 2010 alone. In the effort to keep "frontline staff" available, the tech department was one area where the axe fell when the banking group was slashing the headcount. ®