Leader: Toughen up financial services

Or let the doom mongers say they told you so...

Or let the doom mongers say they told you so...

When it comes to sectors that have been taken to another level by the adoption of internet technologies and IT more broadly, financial services must rank right up there. But if you were to look at silicon.com headlines only today you'd be forgiven for thinking we're in the dark ages.

As some people might know, perhaps from personal experience, over the long Easter weekend Barclays' network of ATMs and online banking services failed. There has been some debate as to whether this was the result of a human error - some mainstream bulletins claiming one unfortunate individual set systems back an hour on Saturday night as opposed to forward, with knock-on effects - or technological failing. This afternoon Barclays told silicon.com it was the latter.

Whatever - it shows that a major financial institution had a disappointing if not disastrous Achilles heel. We know that bank normally does much better than that but right now, in the absence of details, it's hard to think of reasonable excuses.

Then separately, we carry the news that only just over half of readers answering our poll on chip and PIN regard that card technology as making their transactions more secure, while today Forrester tells us that just 30 per cent of a survey sample of consumers in countries such as France, Italy and the UK are confident with their personal financial information when it is used to bank online.

Depressed yet? Clearly, as this publication has long said, online transactions are the way forward. We urge consumers and businesses of all sizes to embrace electronic transactions - for banking, buying, selling and more - all with appropriate levels of common sense.

We say it again - it is statistically safer than passing cards or cash to a waiter, or sending an assistant to pick up Christmas bonuses from a high street bank. (Yes, we do think that still happens, somewhere.)

But on today's evidence, what do the optimists say to the Luddites? With security fears and security reality a problem - witness the rise in phishing scams and identity theft - are they justified in doing things the old-fashioned way?

Standards must not only remain high in financial services but get better. That's tough but it's the only way forward.