Over the past week, various entities controlled by bailed out UK-bank RBS, focusing primarily on NatWest, have seen clients unable to access virtually any of their funds, perform any financial transactions, or even get an accurate reading of their assets. The official reason: “system outage”… yet as the outage drags on inexplicably for the 5th consecutive day, the anger grows, as does speculation that there may be more sinister reasons involved for the cash hold up than a mere computer bug.
The Scotsman.com reports:
BRANCHES of Royal Bank of Scotland will open on a Sunday for the first time this weekend as RBS Group struggles to deal with the aftermath of technical problems that have affected up to 12 million customers. The taxpayer-owned group took the unprecedented step of extending the hours of more than 1,000 RBS and NatWest branches that normally open on a Saturday to 6pm, and opening them again tomorrow morning, as it faces an angry backlash from people unable to access accounts, withdraw wages or pay bills and mortgage payments.
The difficulties, which have hit NatWest, RBS and Ulster Bank users, are entering their fifth day. RBS said the backlog had been caused by a “system outage” on Tuesday, and that it was “working around the clock” to resolve it.
Some customers said their home purchases or holiday plans had been plunged into chaos by the glitches, while others vowed to switch banking provider. Fears have been raised that thousands could be hit with penalty charges if their regular bill payments, such as for their mortgage, are affected. Consumer groups called on the banking behemoth to provide “appropriate compensation” to those customers who suffer as a consequence of the “failure”.
It appears the difficulties have hit hardest at NatWest, which has more than 7.5m personal banking customers. RBS Group said it could not tell how many had been affected as it was not possible to know when they were expecting payments into their accounts.
Problems are spreading beyond just RBS:
A group spokeswoman said it was “too early to say” how many RBS or NatWest customers in Scotland had been affected, but added: “The RBS problems seem to have been solved. The backlog being dealt with now has to do with NatWest customers predominantly.”
However, the problem is not confined to RBS account holders. Some non-customers are suffering as their employers use the group, and have not received their salary payments. Customers of RBS Group’s banking transaction services include the Government Banking Service, which looks after the balances of hundreds of public sector organisations, from government departments through to executive agencies.
RBS Group, which has 317 RBS and six NatWest branches in Scotland, said 192 RBS branches would be open today, a number of which would stay open until 6pm. Across the UK, hundreds more branches will extend their hours tonight, as well as opening tomorrow between 9am and 12 noon.
It is only logical that after Schdoinger currency, and Schrodinger Egyptian president, we no whave Schrodinger’s Money: it’s there… and yet it isn’t.
Customers have reported a plethora of problems. Account balances have not been updated properly, meaning credit and debit payments are not showing up as quickly as they should, although RBS said the money was “in the system”. People going into their branch yesterday could not necessarily see the most up-to-date information on their balances, although staff were said to be “geared up” to help.
It is still unclear how much longer the “glitch” will persist:
Susan Allen, customer services director for RBS NatWest retail, said it was difficult to say exactly when all the problems would be resolved. She said they had been due to “an error in our system which we believe we have now fixed but we are clearing the backlog”.
The situation has gotten so dire that RBS itself has just issued a press release. The message is the usual one: keep calm, all is well.
Message to Customers from Stephen Hester RBS Group Chief Executive
23rd June 2012
The problems of the past few days have caused disruption and inconvenience for our customers as well as for many customers of other banks.
I am very sorry for the difficulties people are experiencing. Our customers rely on us day in and day out to get things right, and on this occasion we have let them down. This should not have happened.
Right now my top priority, and the priority of the entire RBS Group, is to fix these problems and put things right for our customers.
This is taking time, but I want to reassure people that we are working around the clock to resolve these problems as quickly as we are able.
I also want to be clear that where our customers are facing hardship or difficulty we can and will help them. Our staff have already helped thousands of customers to access cash and we will continue to provide this service on a 24 hour basis while we work to resolve the problems.
I also want to reassure customers that no one will be left permanently out of pocket as a result of this, and again, they should contact us directly about this.
We have double the usual number of staff in our call centres, and for the first time ever we will open 1,200 branches across the country on a Sunday from 9am to 12pm.
Once again I am very sorry for the inconvenience.
Luckily, Greece is (still) in the Eurozone. Or else all those trumpeted preparations for a pan-European bank run and capital controls may have been put into play.
Then again, with ATM friends such as the above, who needs Greeks bearing presents or Trojan horses?