Media information note: 02 July
The Royal Bank of Scotland Group plc – Update on technology issues affecting Ulster Bank customers
Ulster Bank advises customers that it is making steady inroads to the delays in its payments systems caused by a technology problem at its RBS parent group. The pace of progress is improving though of course has been slower than we or our customers would have liked. We are grateful to our customers for their patience while we work hard to restore a normal service level.
Each evening, the bank processes the day’s transactions across our businesses. This is a large-scale operation - on an average day we process around 20 million transactions. The transactions are processed in batches through automated systems. In normal conditions this overnight batch processing completes before business resumes the following day.
The initial reviews we have carried out indicate that a problem was created when maintenance on systems, which are managed and operated by our team in Edinburgh, caused an error in our batch scheduler. This error caused the automated batch processing to fail on the night of Tuesday 19 June. The knock-on effects created significant processing delays and required substantial manual interventions from our team. This was made worse because the team could not access the record of transactions that had been processed up to the point of failure. The need to first establish at what point processing had stopped delayed subsequent batches and created a backlog. It is not clear at this stage why that record was not available. Consequently, a significant number of customer account balances did not update as they should have from Tuesday 19 June.
The exact cause of this issue will only be known once we have carried out a full investigation, which we will do as a matter of priority.
Progress to date
Although the initial problem was rectified promptly, we were faced with a processing backlog which had to be cleared before we could begin to return the systems to normal. In order to be able to recommence automated batch processing and to move towards a normal state, the batches had to be brought back into sequence. Unfortunately for our customers in Ireland, Ulster Bank payments follow in sequence after those of NatWest and RBS. This is because of the way the technology was set-up at the time the 3 banks were integrated. It in no way reflects the priority we attach to our Ulster Bank customers and we regret any confusion this might have caused.
Over this weekend, steady progress was made in starting to bring the Ulster Bank batch processing up to date. The key now is to catch up on the backlog.
We target that customers should see their balances updating during the coming week. However, normal service will take some further time as our experience from dealing with the same issues in the UK suggests that there may be bumps along the road. We will do everything we can to manage the continued inconvenience this may cause to our customers.
We will issue a media update each day to keep our customers fully informed. The same information will be shared with our customers through our normal channels, on our websites, via twitter, in our call centres and branches.
We will carry out a full and detailed investigation into the causes of the problem, overseen by independent experts, once the critical system recovery tasks are completed and we will continue to liaise closely with regulators. We will publish relevant findings from this investigation in due course. In the meantime, our priority is helping our customers and restoring a dependable banking platform on the island of Ireland.
Our commitment to our customers
Customers in Ireland rightly expect better from us than the service problems experienced as a result of this incident. We are committed to ensuring that no one will be left permanently out of pocket as a result of this. Our Ulster Bank branches have been open for extended hours all week and our call centres have significantly higher numbers of staff available to answer calls. We are asking any customers affected by this issue to contact us and we will do all we can to help
We apologise again for the significant inconvenience we know this incident has caused and sincerely thank our customers for their patience.
Stephen Hester, RBS Group Chief Executive, said:
"I want to apologise to our Ulster Bank customers for the significant inconvenience caused by these technology problems.
"I recognise that being sorry is not enough; we believe we have fixed the initial problem and are now making inroads in catching up with the knock-on effects to our customers in Ulster Bank. My colleagues and I are fully committed in support of our Board, management and staff in Ireland who have been tireless in their efforts to support our customers.
"We recognise that we are important to Ireland. And Ireland is important to us. We have been steadfast in supporting customers in Ulster Bank through the financial crisis, maintaining a full banking service as others have left the banking market. We will continue to meet our responsibilities and ensure we restore normal support to our customers."