Saturday 21 October 2017

Ulster Bank meltdown has 'damaged all banks'

DON LAVERY

EMBATTLED Ulster Bank's IT debacle has had another knock-on effect -- a majority of those polled by the Sunday Independent said it had damaged their faith in all banks.

Some 58 per cent of those polled agreed that the computer chaos at the financial institution had undermined their faith in all banks -- although a great many people qualified this by saying that they had had a very low opinion of the banks to begin with.

Another 42 per cent disagreed, with many again pointing out that they had no faith in banks anyway so what happened at Ulster Bank had no bearing on their opinions either way.

Others thought it was an unfortunate technical issue which once cleared up would soon be forgotten.

Meanwhile, Ulster Bank claimed that this week will be the final week of any significant delays for their customers -- although customers have seen several false dawns when promises to fix the IT problems by specific dates proved to be too optimistic.

Among a widening circle of problems caused by the bank's IT failure is at insurance giant Aviva, which confirmed that it has not received hundreds of thousands of insurance payments due on July 1 as they use Ulster Bank services.

Other banks that have customers who pay Aviva have seen their direct debits untouched because of the Ulster Bank debacle.

"We can confirm that policies across the board have been affected, whether they are health, car, home or travel policies. The payments were due on July 1 but customers won't be charged penalties by us," said Aviva spokesman Shane O'Donoghue.

"We will make three attempts over a 42-day period to collect premiums from customers before anything would happen," he said.

Ulster Bank, meanwhile, opened 36 of its branches yesterday and said it would open some branches today from 10am to 1pm.

The bank said yesterday: "There will be gradual, but significant and noticeable improvements throughout the remainder of this week and next. We expect that by the week of 16 July the vast majority of customers will return to a normal service.

"There may be some final reconciliations required to customers' accounts. We will continue to provide updates."

But IT problems have continued. Some of its customers have seen their salaries credited to their accounts twice, while others have mortgage and loan repayments taken out more than once.

In other cases mortgage payments due to the bank itself haven't been taken out. One angry customer of Permanent TSB said his Aviva payment had not been taken out on July 1 and he had spent an hour on the phone talking to his own bank and Aviva about the issue."The situation at the bank is appalling. Heads would roll at the top in any other business for such blatant failures."

Ulster Bank, meanwhile, confirmed that no customer will be left permanently out of pocket and there should be no adverse impact on customers' credit ratings as a result of the computer chaos.

Meanwhile, Labour Senator Lorraine Higgins said that Ulster Bank's handling of the debacle has been "utterly shambolic and smacks of horrendous ineptitude".

She accused Ulster Bank of cutting corners and of having a "fast buck" mentality.

Senator Higgins said it was her understanding that Ulster Bank advertised "urgent" systems job positions last February in India -- paying new operatives 20 per cent less than their English equivalent.

"Was the decision taken by management to outsource operations overseas done with third-party consultants, or did Ulster Bank carry out due diligence measures?" she asked.

"If the bank failed to do either, then they made a negligent business decision -- and must blame themselves rather than the IT team. If these are the circumstances, then the board should resign."

Sunday Independent

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