RBS/ULSTER ‘GLITCH’: Has IT at last done something useful?

I wonder if I am the only person in Britain this morning who finds the NatWest/Ulster Bank computer ‘glitch’ incredibly convenient for some – albeit not the customers?

This just happens to be one of the world’s rockiest banking groups (most of whose astronomical toxic obligations are being hidden from view in one of the nastiest cover-ups in history) and the ‘glitch’ just happens to involve the inner core of the toxicity, Ulster Bank.

There are other considerations to think about too. One former insider tells me that the previous Head of Retail, Brian Hartzer (who resigned last November but only left nine days ago) had made something of a nuisance of himself as an internal whistle-blower about RBS’s myriad Antics Road Shows. Equally interesting is that 50% of Hartzer’s job was looking after….Ulster Bank.

Anyway, he’s recruited his own successor and, as antipodeans so often do, has chosen one of his own – Ross McKewan, a Kiwi formerly high up in Commonwealth Bank. Aussies can tell you quite a bit about Commonwealth, not much of it nice. Commonwealth raised their lending rates in 2010 (about three seconds after the Government did so) but depositors have not as yet received any hints that this largesse might also be moving in their favour soon. Breath-holding is not recommended.

The action of Combank can be partly explained by its then boss, okker and good old boy Ralph Norris, pictured below:

Yes, you’re right – it’s the one-time Australian cultural attache, Les Patterson, hiding under an assumed name but unable to disguise his informally arranged teeth and stained tie. (To protect Ralph from further shame, I cropped out the tie.)

Last time I looked, Ralph was getting paid $16.2 million a year, and so what with his weekly pay cheque and shiny new rate increase, you can see why he’s grinning like a crocodile. But that smile cost the average Combank loan customer $88 a month…which is allmoss nyonybacksmite. Lovely people, bankers…and so consistent wherever you go.

Anyway, Ross McKewan (he sounds like an ageing folk singer, dunno why) didn’t get Ralph’s job, so he’s sold the house and is heading Blightywards for the biggest hospital pass in banking after Bank of America. I wonder if he’ll bother making the journey.

The most suspicious thing of all about this affair is that, when you look at the computer ‘problem’, it just happens to be one disabling the bank’s ability to give their customers any money. My oh my. It has desperation scam written all over it, but like all things bankerized, it seems unlikely we’ll get to the truth without a senior insider spilling the beans.

If that sounds like you, then the address to write to is jawslog@gmail.com – in complete confidence.

But in the meantime, I’m sure that nice bonus foregoer Stephen Hester has a complete explanation for this most unfortunate affair. And in other news, the Bank of England this morning announced that its only cheque writer Sir Horace Dimplemouse died unexpectedly last night. A Treasury spokesperson told The Slog that it would take at least three years to recruit and train a replacement. A Mr Geoff Unborn of Downing Street was last night helping the Metropolitan Police get all his DNA off the body.

73 thoughts on “RBS/ULSTER ‘GLITCH’: Has IT at last done something useful?

  1. The worst event (probably terminal) for a bank is a ‘bank run’. It must be avoided at all costs.
     A system must be planned to stop customers removing their cash from the ATM – hence ‘the computer glitch.
    Over the last week:
    BOE provide additional finance to the banking fraternity.
    S&P downgrade UK banks
    CEO of NatWest exits company 

      • Pistols at dawn me thinks.

        Not sure if it helps but Natwest let me take out £300 on Friday, ironic really given that I had fvck all in the account in the first place, but dependant on who of the two sharp shooters above is right, dictates whether I’ll have to reimburse the money if and when their systems reboot.

        I suspect bmf is right, which for society as a whole and Western society in particular is probably a good thing, even if it means I’m worse off to the tune of a fee outlined in the standard letter once the bank gets its act together, although not as worse off as I would have been a few years ago when the banks used punishment of the feckless to improve their bottom line.

        Has anyone else noticed that the Banks socialising of the fees of the feckless coincided with the fees of the feckless Banks being socialised on the many?

        Not that bankers would concede that they’re feckless, but then they wouldn’t would they.

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  3. I too was might suspicious but, thought more along the lines of a virus or being hacked, and having worked in the industry previously nothing is ever done that can’t be undone in a matter of a couple of hours, maybe overnight in case of a full restore.

  4. Also interesting that RBS England and Natwest Scotland are in the process of being taken over by Santander,,the cuckoo in the nest.

  5. I thought on Thursday it was a bit convenient. How could they on Thursday morning tell everybody that they would have the same problem on Friday.

    I have no doubt that they knew they would have the same problem on Friday and next week, but the problem is not IT but one of no money.

    And it all happened on they day they were downgraded

  6. I’m an ulsterbank customer (for what little I keep in there) so all I see is anecdotal. But this started early last week. I keep bugger all in my account and usually just enough to cover a few bills etc. because of this the account sometimes goes overdrawn and I have an overdraft that has always been in place not much but about €700, then last week this suddenly failed to work and caused a standing order to bounce.

    I didn’t think too much of it but in the context of the last few days is it pointing towards a bank with an acute cashflow problem?

    It’s highly suspicious, a glitch that lasts 12 hrs would be considered catastrophic, but we’re getting on for 5 days now. Does it take that long for the BOE to bridge the gap and shore up their liquidity…again?

  7. My concern is that, rather like Porton Down holding some very nasty biological bugs here in the UK, two of our larger hight street banks now hold a piece of bug ridden software, fully tested and found capable of rendering all ATM’s ineffectual and re-setting all clients assets to zero ! I do hope that RBS don’t plan to market it, but have a very bad feeling that in most of Club Med it would already be quite a sought after commodity !!

    I agree with Nhoj and kfc on their comments above….. and would add that we all seem to have moved yet another day closer to stuffing the matress at home !

  8. Does anyone know exactly where all the money which has been paid TO Natwest has been parked for the last few days and exactly how much that has earned them in in interest? I bet Hester won’t be coming clean anytime soon on that!

  9. A funny thing happened to me last Thursday at an RBS ATM in a suberb of Manchester. It restricted withdrawals to £50 and only paid out in old £5 notes. However, it did allow me two shots to get £100, but again all in fivers. Strange?

    • I didnt think ATMs even stocked fivers anymore.

      If that’s what they’re down to then I’d say this “glitch” is only just getting started!

      • I do believe at times that the Bank of England compels the banks to load ATM’s with fivers in order to get new notes into circulation. The banks don’t like putting the £5 note into ATM’s as it means more frequent loading but there was a time a couple of years ago or so when there was a shortage of fivers with only really scruffy old notes in circulation and this was forced on them.

        However this business with RBS/Nat West is all very suspicious.

    • It is a scheme for areas with people who don’t have a lot of money in their accounts to get out a £5.The first one was introduced in Roman Rd. in the East end of London a few years back. As there is a limit to how many £5 can be stacked into an ATM, they put a £50 limit per transaction.
      The one at Roman Rd also has the choice to have the screen transaction written in Cockney.

  10. (most of whose astronomical toxic obligations are being hidden from view in one of the nastiest cover-ups in history)

    Oh, Darling…

  11. It is all every well saying that bank customer funds are guaranteed up to £85,000, but can you imagine how long it would take to see a peny piece of a government refund if a bank did go down. Cash is King (says Mervyn, and I say what you can have, and when.)

      • Oh my God, we’re doomed, doomed I tell you. As an RBS customer, (and I’m not one to panic) I don’t think a grand transferred to my wall safe would go amiss on Monday morning. Hey ho!

    • The Government guarantee on bank deposits is a complete sham given the cavalier way in which they are prepared to use quantitative easing.
      Sure you’ll get your money back £85k in worthless paper notes that have massively reduced real value with background raging inflation.

      • No point squirrelling money under the bed then as it will be worth exactly the same as the devalued guaranteed paper.

    • Cash could be king – I wouldn’t discount it. And every precious metal bug should also keep plenty of cash too. Yet should that happen (ie big deflation) you better have physical cash, because in that scenario the banks are toast.

      So physical cash is king; credit of banks would be worthless. This also explains the move in treasuries and bunds, as people just seek an institution that can’t go bust to park their fiat…

      • @Maxi Psycho
        There only seems to be two realistic scenario’s from
        hereon; massive deflation or hyper inflation.
        Deflation if TPTB lose control ,or hyper inflation if they retain it.
        Personally I’m 50% cash in a basket of non euro cash and
        50% in PM’s.I hope this position will enable us to survive and/or
        profit from either.
        We’re watching the UK banking situation daily as we still have
        money in those banks.
        If anyone hears anything about Barclays or HSBC.please post it
        pronto,so we can remove our remaining balances..

  12. Did Microsoft release any ‘critical updates’ last week?

    The more complex the IT systems become, the closer we get to having a pile-up of unimaginable proportions. Think of an endless stream of speeding traffic doing 100mph down the M1 in the fog and then everyone’s brakes fail simultaneously.

    Remember, if it can happen, it will happen.

    • Banks may use commercially available s/w for office terminals etc, but most of their mainframe stuff which in interfaces with through layers of security is bespoke and (usually) tested to destruction before implementation.

    • The Banks et al have backed up storage of their information in underground bunkers, old oil rigs et c. et c. including Faraday cages for solar flares, emp shocks et c.

  13. Pish ….Bank runs are nothing compared to a wannabe President of a USE. From BBC: “Tony Blair has said the UK will face an “interesting choice” over whether to join the euro if the currency’s current crisis is resolved.
    The former prime minister told the BBC he believed the UK should still be keeping open the option of joining it.
    He said that looking at the “broad sweep of history” in the long term “the European integration project” was going to go ahead, “like it or not”.

    In the meantime his missus has been photographed parading over London Bridge with an old goat…..

    • “if the currency’s current crisis is resolved”

      That’s a mighty big “if”!!

      Blair is still top of my kill-list, you’d think that there are bigger villains around at the moment but he’s such an arse (and a criminal) that I can’t shake the desire to bet him to death with his own shoe.

    • With an evil fascist mindset like Blair’s, it’s not difficult to see why he wants so many security guards around him.

    • BLiar gave his game away when he said what EUrope was really about was ‘power’. No wonder he wants it.

      But he dissembled badly when asked if it was true that he didn’t allow the attorney general to put to the Cabinet both sides of the legal argument on invading Iraq. In a nutshell, he didn’t answer the question and Marr, as usual, sychophantic interviewer that he is, allowed him to get away with it.

      If BLiar does ever get the EU, we will know for sure that it is the new soviet.

  14. Thought it was suspicious too.. Perhaps a dry run for when the big one hits? Just how long can you keep the punters at arms length before they turn feral?
    How much profit are they making on the “assets” they are not handing out for a week?

  15. I believe the curious and relevant events were RBS saying that they had ‘debugged’ and technically sorted the problems yet ‘normal service’ would not be resumed for well over 48 hours this smacks total back up failure or issues not related to the IT department.

  16. The glitch affected more than preventing customers access to their money. According to an RBS spokesperson it also affected incoming payments (but we have no independent confirmation of that).

    However, I agree with @kfc: if it was caused by new buggy software, it could have been rolled back overnight if their IT people are worth a light. So there’s something more to it. Were they testing a new ‘kill switch’? Do they have cashflow problems? Were they preventing a bank run after the downgrade? hhmmm.

    But this is not the first time such incidents have arisen…HSBC & NWB a while back shut down their ATMs. And some months ago HBOS introduced a temporary 24hr delay into Fast Payment transactions without warning and without explanation.

    • As one previously involved in large corporate IT management, I can confirm that any IT department worth its salt would always have a roll-back position available and at least one ‘go/no-go’ check-point in the upgrade process. Such changes are always implemented outside prime-shift (overnight or weekends) to limit impact on concurrent operations and to enable the roll-back if necessary.

      If it was the RBS IT Department’s fault, then one IT Director will surely be looking for a new job tomorrow – all bank’s IT folk are generally pretty good at that routine operational stuff, so I share the common view that there are other balls in play here. Sadly I have no current contacts at RBS IT to acquire any accurate information – but maybe someone else has.

      • Whilst the media reported this affecting millions of personal accounts, it also affected business accounts – including larger corporate accounts (mine included).

        Of course the neat explanation is that all their IT systems are highly integrated, thus they were all affected. Is that reasonable?

        Otherwise this glitch – however it was caused (deliberately or otherwise) – must have been propagated across multiple systems.

        Another observation is that the glitch came and went and came back again. It wasn’t a clean fix, or it was reinstated somehow along the way…

      • @Mudplugger: Indeed. Natwest are/were a major customer of my own employer who produced much of the mass transaction processing s/w they used. In those days, NWB knew how to run big computers.

        @SparkyMarky: Not sure exactly what is meant here…sure, RBS,Natwest & Ulster will probably have common systems nowadays. And all banks have interfaces to all the other banks using BACS/CHAPS/FPS etc but these are security-controlled interfaces which theoretically prevent two-way contamination.

        I think we can say with fair certainty that the RBS spokesperson is not coming clean and somethng far greater than a ‘glitch’ has occurred. It would be astonishing if they were infected with some sort of malware…

      • Seems to me that they have have a terminal infection of incompetence. @BT. We have discussed previously the wisdom of using their services and they our money, and I have met stony silence among moneymen as to their long term prospects. I suspect I and the electrician below and many others will be looking for safer havens for our corporate accounts ASAP. John, I hope better climes are of benefit to your dear wife’s health. Wishing you both the best.

    • Can confirm it affected transfers in also. Three separate transfer in dated wed, thu and fri of last week, should all have been instantaneous or thereabouts: wed’s hit thurs, thu’s didn’t show although it was reflected in the overall balance, fri’s no trace.

      • Don’t doubt that for a second. I would be more concerned if it weren’t money going in to cover a mortgage payment. Seems very smelly indeed.

    • If they have been attacked/hacked I don’t think they would admit it. If people think any bank could be attacked anytime soon there could be a panic and a full-on bank run.
      It may just be a F-up with their IT but as it is said, Perception is what rules and at the moment more people are realizing their money might not be safe.
      This is my thoughts on gold/silver, the PTB can manipulate the price with paper for a very, very long time but, if the general public(especially in the West) start to buy the physical in a mass movement due to lack of confidence in the banks, then the price will be wenched out of the PTB’s control.
      Something seemingly trivial, may well be the spark to ignite the whole banking system.

      “You may fool all the people some of the time, you can even fool some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all the time.”
      Abraham Lincoln

  17. So what we really think is that RBS actually fell over-but it was covered up until an emergency credit was made presumably by the Bank of England.

  18. IT systems do go down. NatWest’s IT was folded into that of RBS (it was Fred the Shred’s intention to demolish NatWest’s operation at Goodmans Fields and then sow the site with salt but he didn’t get that far) and then if the whole operation got penny pinched by Stephen Hester this sort of thing could indeed happen. As to having a bck up of course they should. But I remember Barlays making a change in the 70s and, for good measure, applying it to the backup system. They were off the air for about a week.

  19. Well, call me cynical but:
    a sick bank gets a downgrade
    the sick bank can’t make payments
    the sick bank says it’s all down to the IT.
    Its just like a debtor saying the cheque must have gone astray in the post-let’s not forget that the financial establishment are total and utter liars. if they told me it was raining, I’d have to go and look myself!

  20. There were reports in the Gruinad and Telegraph comments section that RBS/Nat West sacked the last of their IT workers who had knowledge going back to the 60′s ( when the embedded software was first developed).
    IT is now being done in India with ‘experts’ in the UK helping by phone. The upgrade to the system fell over and no one had a clue how to fix the problem.

    • That excuse is on par with the dog ate my homework.
      No way anyone in IT would not keep the old version
      in reserve to fall back on.Indian IT engineers are
      very competent,whatever the MSM says.

      • “Indian IT engineers are very competent,whatever the MSM says.”
        I’ve no idea what the MSM says about Indian IT engineers but in my first hand experience they aren’t very good at all. Unless you’re talking Microsoft technologies, then they’re on the same level as any other nationality but its not MS technology that failed at RBS.

        Bert’s explanation rings true for me

      • Winston..
        It wasn’t the MSM that was reporting the reasons for the failure it was in the comments section.
        From The Telegraph..

        boeingboy

        Yesterday 10:42 PM

        Hester do us all a favour and resign immediately.

        A lot of people in the know have said that it was as follows: “I’m anonymous for very obvious reasons having been one of the recent 1000+ to find their roles now being done from Chennai, however I have been
        speaking to a few ex-colleagues who are still there and can confirm that a CA7 upgrade was done, went horribly wrong, and was then backed out (which will have been done in
        typical RBS style – 12 hours of conference calls before letting the
        techie do what they suggested at the very start).
        My understanding is that most if not all of the batch team were let go and replaced with people from India and I do remember them complaining that they were having to pass 10-20+ years worth of mainframe knowledge on to people who’d never heard of a mainframe outside of a museum.”There has to be a full open and transparent investigation into what happened. This speculation is eroding confidence in the banking sector as a whole becaust most of them offshore.”

      • Having had personal dealings with the Indian arm of an IT firm from here in the UK. Competence just perhaps maybe. Any real understanding of the timescales of importance and getting a job done to time NO WAY

    • Some people will say I’m banging on about the evils of socialism again, but what we are witnessing here with these mad mad debt numbers is a complete collapse of European socialism, including in Britain. Europe has spent the years since WWII creating a giant largely unfunded socialist welfare state (and in Britain’s case the huge money-burning NHS). Lack of tax revenues and limitations on taxation (risk of taxpayer revolts) has not held back political dreams of utopia and has forced govts to borrow, borrow, borrow like there’s no tomorrow, with no regard of how it would ever be repaid. At these levels of debt, tomorrow is looking very bleak.
      It’s gonna take some very brave politicians to come clean about this mess.

  21. A bit off-topic – but I was on a short-term contract at NatWest in Goodmans Fields in 1994-95 and they were in the process of converting their ATM system from a closed 3rd-party supplier to a (then) new system where every ATM was a Windows NT 3.5 PC housed in an ATM box and networked into the central system.

    The system was very troublesome initially, but their excellent relationship with Microsoft led Bill Gates to send over a group of his best Windows NT engineers with the entire source code of Windows NT on their laptops so that they could debug it at the most basic level.

    I was assured at the time that almost every significant alteration when Windows NT went from v3.5 to the major long-lasting release v3.51 was developed by these NT engineers at NatWest in Goodmans Fields.

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  23. Am I the only one who thinks that RBS/ Ulster Bank just ran out of money last week and invented the “upgrade glitch” to cover up?

  24. Fair suck of the sav, mate. Norris is no Aussie, he’s a (knighted) All Black loving kiwi.

    We have enough of our own crooks, so dunno why we need to import them, but there you go…….

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