Ulster Bank to call in independent experts


ULSTER BANK has said independent experts will oversee an investigation into the technical problems that have lasted for two weeks.

The bank has pledged to publish “the relevant findings” arising from the inquiry, which it said would begin once the problems have been overcome.

How long this will take became less clear yesterday with the bank saying it required “further time”.

“The pace of progress is improving though of course has been slower than we or our customers would have liked,” Ulster Bank said in a statement.

Estimates for the return of normal services have been revised a number of times since the problems arose.

Customers “should see their balances updating during the coming week”, Ulster 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 Sir Philip 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 but 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 with the CEOs 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.