Bank IT meltdown affects 150,000
THE massive computer systems meltdown at Ulster Bank has spread to affect about 150,000 people.
These include both customers of the bank, as well as others whose wages and social welfare payments were routed through the British-owned bank.
Customers were furious yesterday as they desperately scrambled to get cash together, but were denied access to combined millions. And there were questions being asked about the failure of the banking group to use a contingency plan as a back-up.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny joined in the criticism of the bank for its slow response.
Last night the bank was promising to have its systems back working by Monday.
But Una Dillon of the Irish Payments Services Organisation, which arranges payments between banks, said it could be well into next week before all the issues were sorted out. She said the problem was impacting on around 150,000 people.
Last night it emerged that:
&- Some 60 branches will open today, and 20 of the largest branches will open tomorrow.
- The bank had insisted it had not fallen victim to a hacker or an activist hacker group.
- The bank is offering to refund and pay any charges or loss of interest to customers.
- AIB is to step in and process wage payments that were due to come out of Ulster Bank business accounts.
- The bank apologised unreservedly to customers for what it called a major IT issue.
- NatWest, the Royal Bank of Scotland and Ulster Bank were all affected by the IT meltdown.
Social Protection Minister Joan Burton rang Ulster Bank chief executive James Brown to demand better treatment for worried consumers.
"Given all of the grief that banks have caused to people in Ireland, I really think that the bank needs to address this particular situation with absolute urgency," she said.
Companies demanded yesterday that no firms have penalties imposed as a result of the computer failure.
An estimated 15pc of businesses have been directly affected by the Ulster Bank crisis.
The Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association said the problem will really escalate if Ulster Bank doesn't manage to sort the situation by Monday. That is because next week is when most businesses pay monthly salaries and make their VAT returns.
ISME's Mark Fielding said the crisis "beggars belief".
"We will be asking the Central Bank to find out exactly how this happened and to assure us that the same thing can't happen again," he said.
Chief operating officer of the bank Ellvena Graham said any demands for compensation would be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. Ms Graham unreservedly apologised to all those affected by its IT problems.
She said the problem has now been fixed but it will take the weekend to clear the backlog.
Questions to the bank about its failure to have a contingency plan kick-in when its systems went down went unanswered.
The Central Bank said it was working closely with Ulster Bank to ensure that the situation was addressed quickly.