Ulster Bank problems may stretch into next week – RBS chairman

3 Jul 2012

Ulster Bank customers are thinking about closing their accounts and Philip Hampton, the chairman of Ulster Bank’s parent company, Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), even said the technical problems that have plagued the bank for the past 13 days are likely to continue into next week.

Hampton said what has happened is “completely unacceptable” and staff were working “flat-out” to clear the backlog, BBC News Online reported.

Ulster Bank Group chief executive Jim Brown said many customers will still be experiencing issues with delayed payments, stemming from what Ulster Bank said was a software upgrade to the payment-processing system that was corrupted.

Some 100,000 customers have been affected by the disruption to salary transfers, direct debits and social welfare payments, and today, some 48,000 monthly social welfare payments are due to be paid to Ulster Bank customers, which will need to be processed, RTÉ reported.

Ulster Bank customers take to Twitter

In a statement on Friday, Ulster Bank had expressed confidence in full service resuming early this week. Now, one Twitter user has had enough.

“What forms of ID are acceptable in the bank so that I can finally get my wages and close my account?” asked Twitter user Raukfu.

Paul Lewis tweeted, “I’ve said it now on air so I might as well restate it: If I was a #RBS #NatWest #Ulsterbank customer I would be moving my business asap.”

Even Simon Harris, Fine Gael TD for Wicklow/East Carlow, had this to say on the microblogging site: “Ulster Bank’s unacceptable handling of this crisis must not just be put down to ‘systemic errors’ – people are highly paid to run that bank.”

The Oireachtas Committee on Finance has called representatives of the Central Bank to appear before it tomorrow and Ulster Bank management to appear before it on Thursday, RTÉ reported.

To help customers, Ulster Bank has doubled the number of staff in its call centres and has opened its help desk from 8am to 10pm. The desk can be reached at 1800 205 100, and those calling from abroad should dial +353 9156 2910. Ulster Bank itself also has its own Twitter account.

About 50 of Ulster Bank’s branches will be open from 9.30 am to 7pm this week, as well, and customers are advised to bring photographic identification, their account details and payslips with them when calling into a branch.

Those efforts aren’t sitting well with Twitter user Naldo Morelli, however.

“Instead of opening all these extra hours why doesn’t Ulster Bank close for a day or two & direct all resources to working through backlog!?” he tweeted.

Keith Baile, meanwhile, showed sympathy for Ulster Bank employees.

“I feel sorry for the front-line staff at Ulster Bank. Must getting slaughtered all day, every day for mistakes way above their pay grade.”

Statement from Ulster Bank Group chief executive Jim Brown

In a statement, Brown apologised to customers.

“I’m deeply sorry to everyone experiencing problems from this delay. I recognise that this is a serious disruption that is unprecedented in Ulster Bank’s 176-year history.”

Brown also said that while the bank’s efforts in processing payments over the weekend have shown good progress in clearing the backlog, it has been at a slower pace than the bank had wanted.

“This means that, although customers will now see some updated balances, many will still be experiencing issues with delayed payments,” Brown said.

“I want to assure you that there is a specialist team of experts working around the clock solely on the Ulster Bank delay and we have seen the speed of the process gradually improving as we catch up.

“If you are impacted by these issues, please get in touch with us through our branches, call centres and relationship managers. All of us at Ulster Bank are determined to do all we can to help you. I want to re-iterate our promise that nobody will be left permanently out of pocket as a result of this delay and we will tell you as soon as possible how we will do this.”

Tina Costanza was a journalist and sub-editor at Silicon Republic