Friday 17 August 2018

Sinead Ryan: Just the latest farce customers like me have had to face

Sinead Ryan
Sinead Ryan "the latest shock may be too much to bear"
Sinead Ryan

Sinead Ryan

Ulster Bank customers like me are well used to not having the snazziest banking app, putting up with glitches and slow updates.

Unfortunately, we’re also used to bigger snafus, but the latest shock may be too much to bear, even for those of us who have given decades of loyal custom.

I’m generally “on top” of my finances. I check my accounts regularly, AND never let my credit card stray into unpaid territory or tip into overdraft, because the charges and fees are eye-watering.

A large lodgement on Monday from the credit union (a loan for a car) showed up on “pending” transactions, only to have disappeared by yesterday.

My shock was only slightly abated by the hundreds of customers reporting exactly the same thing.

While a hacker could certainly strip out an account if you’re not careful, it’s unlikely so many customers would be affected, so it seemed clear that it was a bank glitch at play. Again.

In 2012 there was a similar problem with IT services at the beleaguered bank, now hived off from parent RBS, the bailed-out British banking giant.

This time around, many transactions made since Friday (which would have been pay day for lots of people) disappeared.

It took hours to clarify that no data had been breached or hacked (always a worry these days), but in fact it was down to good old-fashioned “human error”. “Who” isn’t our concern, but “how” is.

Where are the checks and balances, so assiduously applied when the bank is looking for our money but strangely absent when it’s the other way round?

The problem is exacerbated by the fact that many customers may have inadvertently tipped into overdraft, had direct debits unpaid and third party companies, from insurers to broadband providers, will now have to be accounted for and everything back-tracked.

Ulster Bank hasn’t had a good run of things recently. Chief executive Gerry Mallon is leaving after less than two years at the helm.

His purported replacement, Jane Howard, isn’t here yet, and while its Irish division, like all banks, is slowly getting on its feet after the crash, it needs customer support and trust like never before.

Ironically, a press release dropped from Ulster on Monday showcasing its “Sustainable Banking” report. It triumphs itself as a “safer, simpler and more sustainable bank” and navel-gazed over a bunch of statistics.

Mr Mallon added: “Our ambition is to become the number one bank for customer service, trust and advocacy by 2020.”

Bit of a way to go, I think.


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