23 Jun 2012

RBS boss apologises over technical hitch

Stephen Hester, chief executive of RBS, apologises after a computer glitch at high street bank NatWest leaves hundreds of thousands of customers unable to complete transactions is fixed.

A computer glitch at high street bank NatWest which left hundreds of thousands of customers unable to complete transactions is fixed, but a backlog remains. (Reuters)

More than 1,000 branches of the bank were forced to extend opening hours until 7pm on Friday night and over the weekend after a technical fault on Thursday disrupted payments to and from accounts. It is the first time that NatWest has had to keep branches open on a Sunday to deal with mortgages, rent and salaries which haven’t been processed.

NatWest, which is owned by the RBS group, meaning that RBS and Ulster Bank accounts were also affected, has now fixed the problem, the bankâ??s website said today.

“Our priority is to work round the clock to sort the backlog as soon as possible,” a statement said.

Staff are on hand in branches to help with emergency needs, their website said.

Mr Hester apologised, and admitted the bank had let customers down.


Customers were plunged into chaos after the glitch emerged last week, apparently after staff tried to install a software update on RBS’s payment processing system but ended up corrupting it instead.

Wages were not delivered correctly, holiday plans were disrupted, home purchases failed to materialise and supermarket deliveries stopped.

Although the RBS Group said that money transfers are “in the system”, account balances have not been updated properly overnight. This has meant that credit and debit payments have not shown up as quickly as they should, customers going into the banks left in the dark as to their actual bank balance.

Amid concerns that customers will be hit by penalty fines for missed payments such as bills, the banking group has promised that no one will be out of pocket, and anyone who incurs such a penalty as a result of the problems should contact their branch.


There are more than 7.5m personal banking customers who are with NatWest. How many have been affected by the glitch remains unclear, but the smaller Ulster Bank confirmed that 100,000 of its customers had been affected.

Susan Allen, customer services director for RBS-NatWest retail told ITV News it is difficult to say exactly when all the problems will be resolved.

She said they were due to “an error in our system which we believe we have now fixed but we are clearing the backlog”.

The NatWest glitch has provoked a storm of protest on Twitter. Users, pointedly referring to the bank’s “Helpful Banking” advertising slogan, have raised the prospect of compensation or potential legal action.

One user wrote: “#natwest what are u doing! I’m off on holiday today meant to get paid today so where’s my money? helpful banking ay!”

Another said: “Due to complete on flat purchase today. All the money missing in cyberspace. Stressful enough without this, thanks #natwest.”