Ulster Bank 'needs more time'
Ulster Bank has said it needs more time to address a backlog of payments arising from a technical problem that has affected accounts held by more than 100,000 of its customers.
The bank has said it will bring in independent experts to oversee an investigation into the issues that have continued for two weeks. It pledged to publish “the relevant findings” arising from the inquiry, which it said would begin once the problems have been overcome.
In a statement, the bank said customers should see an "improved position on their accounts" today as it works to clear a back log of account transactions.
How long this will take remains unclear, with the bank simply saying it requires “further time” having been forced to revise the date by which the problems will be addressed repeatedly. Ulster Bank chief executive Jim Brown last week told The Irish Times that the problems should be fixed by the beginning of this week.
An Ulster Bank spokesman last night said he could not say when the matter would be resolved. “The pace of progress is improving though of course has been slower than we or our customers would have liked,” he said.
Customers “should see their balances updating during the coming week”, the bank said yesterday, but it warned there may be other “bumps along the road”.
Sir Philip Hampton, the chairman of Royal Bank of Scotland Group, which owns Ulster Bank, yesterday visited Parliament Buildings in Belfast to discuss the ongoing issue with the North’s minister for finance Sammy Wilson. “We deeply regret the inconvenience that these technology problems have caused Ulster Bank’s customers and are working hard to ensure that this complex issue is resolved as quickly as possible,” he said.
Mr Wilson said he told Mr Hampton of his disappointment and said that the problems were not only denying people access to their money but causing “real hardship” and impacting on businesses. “This has been a communications disaster by Ulster Bank leading to the widely held view that Northern Ireland customers have been treated as second class within the RBS Group,” he said.
The issues also affected Ulster Bank’s customers at RBS and British lender NatWest. It is now a week since RBS Group said the vast majority of NatWest and RBS accounts had been free from disruption for two days.
Mr Brown last week denied that repairing the issues at Ulster Bank had been less of a priority for the group. “There is a sequencing in terms of how the systems are structured and how the processes actually run. It hasn’t been a case of prioritising one business over the other,” he said.
Representatives from Ulster Bank have been summoned to appear before the Oireachtas finance committee on Thursday. The situation is also expected to be raised when representatives of the Central Bank appear before the same committee tomorrow.
Committee member and Fianna Fáil finance spokesman Michael McGrath said that both Ulster Bank and the Central Bank now had questions to answer.
In a statement last night the Central Bank said it had been in dialogue with Ulster Bank and the RBS through the weekend.
Deputy governor Matthew Elderfield met the chief executives of RBS and Ulster Bank yesterday to emphasise the importance of RBS addressing the continuing delays in resolving the technical issues”.
The Department of Social Protection said about 41,000 child benefit and 7,000 housing benefit payments would be affected today by the problems at Ulster Bank.