MPs warn banks to check IT systems after NatWest outage

A parliamentary committee has told banks they must check their IT systems following the outage at RBS Group in June, which left millions of customers unable to update their bank balances.
Written by Jon Yeomans, Contributor

Banks should be checking their IT systems in light of the outage that hit RBS Group in June, a committee of MPs has said.

"The recent IT failure at RBS Group affected millions of individuals and a wide range of businesses in the UK and Ireland," Andrew Tyrie MP, chairman of the Treasury Committee, said in a statement on Tuesday. "The problems, and the confusion they caused, threatened to infect the rest of the banking system.

"Every bank should be checking its IT systems. We need to have confidence that such a failure cannot happen again," Tyrie said.

"This episode, and the initial confusion surrounding it, did little for public confidence in our banks." 

RBS Bank
Banks should be checking their IT systems in light of the outage that hit the RBS Group in June, MPs have said. Image credit: RBS

The outage lasted for over a week and meant that bank balances for customers of RBS, NatWest and Ulster Bank did not update, creating a huge backlog of transactions. RBS blamed the failure on a software upgrade that caused automated batch-processing software to malfunction.

Thousands of people were unable to access their money, and some employers could not make salary payments.

The bank group said in August it had set aside £125m to cover costs and compensation resulting from the outage, which left individuals and businesses unable to access their money. It has not revealed how many customers were affected, though an RBS spokeswoman told ZDNet that "many" of its 17 million customers were hit.

"We have resolved 99 percent of the 44,215 incident-related enquiries we received," she said on Tuesday.

Tyrie's comments follow an exchange of letters between the Treasury Committee chairman and Stephen Hester, chief executive of RBS, as well as with Lord Turner, chairman of the Financial Services Authority (FSA).

In answering Tyrie's questions around the outage, Hester explained (PDF) that the initial software problem was quickly rectified.

"Despite this, significant manual intervention in a highly automated and complex batch processing system was required. This resulted in a significant backlog of daily data and information processing," he said. Hester added that no customer data had been lost.

Lord Turner said in his letter (PDF) that the FSA has ordered an independent review into the outage, including why it took longer to resolve problems at Ulster Bank. "On receipt of this independent review, we will consider whether further regulatory action is required," he said.

The Treasury Committee said it will "look closely" at RBS's final report into the incident, although RBS was unable to tell ZDNet when this will be published.

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