Tuesday 26 September 2017

No end in sight to Ulster Bank problems causing chaos for customers

Stephen Hester, the CEO of RBS. Photo: Getty Images
Stephen Hester, the CEO of RBS. Photo: Getty Images

Charlie Weston Personal Finance Editor

ULSTER bank’s technical problems which have led to disruption for two weeks, are likely to continue into next week, Royal Bank of Scotland chairman Philip Hampton has conceded.

Apologising to customers Mr Hampton said the problems at the bank’s subsidiary Ulater Bank have not yet been resolved.



It is feared that the payment of 48,000 monthly social welfare payments today will further exacerbate the situation.



The boss of the banking group that owns Ulster Bank was told, in blunt terms, by regulators in Dublin yesterday to get the massive IT blunder sorted out quickly.



Royal Bank of Scotland group chief executive Stephen Hester flew into Ireland yesterday to take charge of the situation and meet up with the Central Bank, as it emerged that there is no end in sight to the banking shutdown.



Central Bank deputy governor Matthew Elderfield told Mr Hester it was unacceptable that the IT meltdown that has denied people access to their account was now entering its third week.



Ulster Bank is part of the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), which is majority owned by the British taxpayer.



Mr Elderfield's straight- talking came as Ulster Bank admitted it could not now say when the backlog of payments that have yet to be processed would be rectified.



Also at the meeting in the Central Bank's Dame Street headquarters was Ulster Bank boss Jim Brown, who has refused to say if he will give up his bonus in recognition of the bank's handling of the fiasco.



The Central Bank said in a statement: "The deputy governor met with the CEOs of RBS and Ulster Bank earlier today to emphasise the importance of RBS addressing the continuing delays in resolving the technical issues which are impacting Ulster Bank customers."



And it emerged yesterday that crooks are targeting Ulster Bank using the same payslip or social insurance details to withdraw cash in branches.



Staff have no way of checking if people are making multiple withdrawals at different branches, as its computer systems are still not up to date.



It is understood branches up and down the country have been targeted by cheats making claims in a number of branches for cash payments.



A spokeswoman for the bank admitted: "People are trying it on. But then people come into branches and try it on all the time. We have stringent procedures in place to tackle fraud."



The spokeswoman had no comment to make when asked if it was true the bank has no way of checking if people are making multiple cash withdrawals using the same payslip or social welfare papers.



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The collapse of the payments processing systems has meant the bank is handing over cash to customers -- often for the full amount on the payslip -- when they turn up in branches with identity documents and a payslip or social welfare details.



It will take weeks to reconcile these payments electronically, by which time the fraudsters may have closed their accounts.



Some 48,000 social welfare payments, including child benefit, were due to go into Ulster Bank customer accounts last night.



Thousands more have yet to have their salary payment details credited to their accounts.



Yesterday, the bank stopped providing a timeline for when it expects to get its systems back to normal after an unprecedented computer systems collapse.



The bank said it cannot commit to any timescale for clearing the backlog of yet-to-be-processed payments.

Irish Independent

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