Users complain over UK state-owned bank's services as Atos eyes the exit

National Savings & Investment contracting for massive tech deals as customers complain of 2FA failure

Updated The UK National Savings and Investment bank is being bombarded with complaints over failing online security and authentication features which customers say have locked them out of their accounts.

Consumer reviews websites have seen hundreds of one-star assessments awarded to the state-owned bank, many due to failure in its online banking system. A specialist financial website has also received complaints from distraught customers.

“The new website authentication system is completely broken. I enter my details and 2FA code but still get stuck in an endless loop of login > enter code > back to login > enter code > back to login,” one customer said this week on TrustPilot.

Over the past month, many more have complained the system was not working. “Locked out of account because NSI didn't send 2nd level confirmation text,” said one customer in April.

Another said they had been locked out of account their account “even though the second level confirmation contact was correct and password correct” and that NS&I “fail to send second level text.”

Meanwhile, financial website This Is Money said NS&I customers had been in touch to say that services had collapsed into chaos. Issues included locking customers out of their accounts for weeks due to issues with its new security system. Those complaining to the publication said NS&I staff had blamed a “system scanning issue” during calls.

The Register has contacted NS&I to offer it the opportunity to respond. NS&I serves around 25 million people and manages funds worth £202 billion ($254 billion). It is best known for providing Premium Bonds, a form of investment that also offers winnings under a lottery system, an approach designed to persuade people to accrue long term savings which dates back to 1956.

Atos currently provides its core IT services under a deal set to close on 31 March 2024. Its replacement is being procured in chunks which in total are worth nearly $1 billion ($1.24 billion).

In July last year the bank — which is an executive agency of the UK's Chancellor of the Exchequer (its finance department) — awarded IBM a contract worth £34.2 million (c $41.2 million) for "Digital integration and ServiceOps", intended to be its technical and operational center.

In May last year, NS&I launched a procurement for a contract to "deliver and integrate front-office (contact centre) services to support digital self-service transactions, requests, queries and complaints, through webchat, messaging and telephony." Tech suppliers were asked to keep their bids open for the contract — worth £275.8 million ($345 million) — until 31 March 2023. No winner has yet been announced.

A competition for core banking services worth £480.3 million ($601 million) and to "deliver digital self-service experiences and journeys to NS&I's retail banking customers" worth up to £172 million also appears to be ongoing.

Atos was formed in 2007 from the merger of several tech groups, including Siemens Business Services. As such, NS&I's relationship with Atos dates back more than 20 years, in some form or other. In 1999, the bank transferred its operations to Siemens Business Services under a public-private partnership deal, which "appeared to be good value for money," according to the National Audit Office.

However, "Siemens Business Services and NS&I underestimated the challenge involved. Siemens Business Services has encountered a number of problems and so is unlikely to make its projected returns on the project," the NAO said in a 2003 report.

In 2014, NS&I signed a contract with Atos, which, including a 2019 extension worth £305 million, is valued £1.1 billion.

Atos is also departing from a contract with another nationalised financial institution. In February, its agreement with NEST, a UK occupational pensions scheme, ended just two years into its maximum 18-year term. The deal had been set to be worth up to £1.5 billion ($1.8 billion). ®

Updated to add

An NS&I spokesperson has been in touch to say: "We value all our customers and always strive to give them the best service possible, so we're sorry that some customers have not received the high standard of service that they have come to expect from us. Our colleagues work hard every day to ensure that all of our processes run as smoothly as possible and our customers are satisfied with the service they receive."

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