Ulster Bank systems ‘not fit for purpose’

A panel of politicians has said that banking software in Northern Ireland is ‘not fit for purpose’. The panel argued that now the banks were again profitable, their profits should be invested in technology.

The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee reported that in the past three years, Ulster Bank has suffered two major IT failures. The first, in June 2012, locked customers out of their accounts, with problems continuing for weeks. An update to software that processed daily batches of transactions encountered problems, so the decision was taken to roll back the update. However, the older version was unable to process the data, which had been reformatted by the new software. Ulster Bank lagged behind other parts of RBS in resolving the issue.

The second incident, in December 2013, prevented customers from using their bank cards for payment or accessing web applications for three hours. The error impacted some 750,000 customers across the RBS group. The bank apologised for what it called a ‘glitch’. Then, in April 2014, some customers complained that withdrawals from cash machines had been debited from their accounts twice.

Sam Woods of the Bank of England Prudential Regulation Authority described the software in use as ‘antiquated’ and warned that bank IT systems across the UK were far from robust.

Concluding their observations, the politicians criticized Ulster Bank for failing to publish a promised report on its investigations into the IT failures. They said:

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.

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