Ulster Bank unable to say when full service will resume

Mon, Jul 2, 2012, 01:00

Ulster Bank has said that its customers should begin to see their balances update this later week but that it would take "some further time" before normal service resumes at the bank.

Technical problems with the bank’s payment processing systems initially arose some 13 days ago and Ulster Bank has repeatedly had to revise backwards the time by which the backlog affecting more than 100,000 of its customers would be addressed.

Ulster Bank chief executive Jim Brown last week told The Irish Times that normal service would resume at the beginning of this week. However, the bank has since said that due to the “complexity and scale” of the backlog, it was unlikely to resume normal service today.

“We know this disruption is unacceptable and we continue to do all we can to help our customers,” the bank said. “The staff in our branches and call centres are doing everything possible to help customers.”

The Central Bank said on Thursday that it was concerned by “the unacceptable continuing delays” by Ulster Bank in resolving the problem.

The bank said about 50 of its branches will have extended opening hours – from 9.30am to 7pm – until Friday of this week. Queues of people were visible over the weekend at some of the branches that were kept open on Saturday and Sunday.

The technical problem has hampered the bank’s ability to process payments and created what Ulster Bank described as an “unprecedented” backlog. This meant that certain transactions, including salaries and social welfare payments, have been failing to appear in customer accounts on time.

Ulster Bank said the exact cause of the issue would only be known once a full investigation was carried out.

“We will carry out a full and detailed investigation into the causes of the problem, overseen by independent experts, once the critical system recovery tasks are completed and we will continue to liaise closely with regulators,” it said. “We will publish relevant findings from this investigation in due course.”

The issues also affected customers at Ulster Bank’s parent company RBS and British lender NatWest but it is now six days 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. It’s more a technical issue of how the systems were set up years ago.”

The bank said it would continue to provide welfare recipients with access to funds if they visited any branch with photographic ID and their account number.

On the issue of credit ratings, it said it was working with the credit reference agencies to ensure customers’ credit ratings were not affected as a result of the payment backlog.

Representatives from Ulster Bank are due to appear before the Joint Oireachtas Finance Committee on Thursday to answer questions about the ongoing technical problems.

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