back to article NatWest IT cock-up sees 600,000 transactions go 'missing'

NatWest customers have been informed that 600,000 transactions have gone missing, the latest debacle facing the IT gaffe-prone bank. On its Twitter profile this morning the bank, which is part of the Royal Bank of Scotland, said: "Some customer payments are missing this morning, and we are investigating as a matter of urgency …

  1. Richard Wharram

    Popcorn time!

    Same route cause as last time would be a good bet.

    1. wolfetone Silver badge

      Re: Popcorn time!

      I'd like to think some rouge employee's did something similar to what happened in Office Space...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Popcorn time!

        Why rouge? Isn't that a little redist?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Popcorn time!

        A rouge employee? Some dastardly Communist having a go at the capitalists?

      3. daldred

        Re: Really?

        Rouge employees? The ones with red faces?

      4. Someonehasusedthathandle

        Re: Popcorn time!

        "Yeah, those rogue employees always loosing other peeoples monies."

        (Inspired by youtube comments!)

        1. wolfetone Silver badge
          Gimp

          Re: Popcorn time!

          Well, don't I look like an eejit.

          1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
            Coat

            Re: Popcorn time!

            @wolfetone - You're definitely looking red-faced.

    2. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

      Re: Popcorn time!

      "Same route cause..."

      You think they took a wrong turning somewhere then?

      1. Mpeler

        Re: Popcorn time!

        They shoulda turned left at Albuquerqe...

        Whadda buncha maroons (said in best Bugs Bunny voice)...

  2. Gordon 10 Silver badge

    Whats the betting

    The project to fix this based on the last cockup is still in the initiation phase?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "We will ensure no customers are left out of pocket as a result of this issue.”

    I was going to buy a winning lottery ticket, but I couldn't get money out...

    1. Captain Scarlet
      Trollface

      "We will ensure no customers are left out of pocket as a result of this issue.*”

      On an obscure webpage in size 1 font in sub paragraph 72 in their TOS

      *Customers left out of pocket need to claim within 3 minutes of being left out of pocket and turn up to the bank in a Banana suit and £100 for the admin fee

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. hplasm
          Happy

          "...I have been there wearing a Morticia wig a couple of times, for no particular reason."

          I saw you there. Nice legs.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "...I have been there wearing a Morticia wig a couple of times, for no particular reason."

            shame about the face

      2. Someonehasusedthathandle

        You forgot to mention that branch opening hours are Mon-Fri between 10am and 3pm (closed between 11 and 1 for lunch), because deity forbid someone who has a job wants to go into a branch!

      3. Captain Scarlet

        Ah I seem to have offended some Natwest staff, damn that's my scheduled payments going to fail then :(

    2. phuzz Silver badge
      Facepalm

      "We will ensure no customers are left.”

      Fixed it for you.

  4. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    Self-inflicted

    Undoubtedly a crap bank, but don't think the twitterer @Victoria Hicks can really blame Natwest for her having 3 kids - no money, yes, but 3 kids?

    Or maybe they offer a wider range of sercvices than I thought.

    1. LucreLout
      Joke

      Re: Self-inflicted

      don't think the twitterer @Victoria Hicks can really blame Natwest for her having 3 kids

      Have the banks not spent the past 8 years screwing everybody?

      1. Efros

        Re: Self-inflicted

        8 years??????

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Self-inflicted

      Maybe she should stop complaining with her smartphone or computer and stop dicking about on twatter.

      Sorry but it is inexcusable not to have a contingency plan with 3 children, even one that doesn't involve money (relatives/friends).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Self-inflicted

        Sorry but it is inexcusable not to have a contingency plan with 3 children,

        Ah.ah.ah. If you store dried or canned foods and hoard cash for these occasions, then you might be written up as a potential terrorist!

      2. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

        Re: Self-inflicted @AC

        Whilst I cannot fault your logic, experience tells me that there are a lot of people who rely on a single bank account, through which all of their salary/tax credits/child benefit is paid.

        This type of person is also unwilling (so as to avoid the temptation of spending money they don't have) or unable to get a credit card. Also, many operators of pre-payment charging systems for electricity meters will not accept credit cards. Drawing money out of a credit card at an ATM results in punitive credit charges. And many people do not keep significant amounts of cash lying around.

        I have been caught in a situation where I could not get money from a bank because of a cock-up. There was a day where there was a backbone telecom failure in my home area, which resulted in all of the ATMs in the area becoming non-functional, and no shops could do any electronic transactions. I fortunately had folding money in my wallet, but I know of many people who were unable to do anything that day unless they had cash.

        So contingencies are good, but there may come a time when even that becomes useless. Then, the only safe regime is cash!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Self-inflicted @AC

          Plan:

          1. Get rid of blingy mobile phone with twitter app

          2. Put the £20-£40/month you save into a savings account (or in a tin)

          3. Use it to feed the kids when bank doesn't credit you on time

          Also works with Sky dishes.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Self-inflicted @AC

            "Put the £20-£40/month you save into a savings account"

            Obviously you are one of the 1%ers. My wifes fully paid for mobile phone costs £5 per month for her minimal usage. Many people pay nowhere near £20-40 per month for a phone.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Self-inflicted @AC

              I'd bet most non "1%ers" pay over £20 a month for their mobiles.

              go to ee.co.uk. Biggest ad seems to be for "iPhone 5c WITH WIFI CALLING" for £21.99 a month. I saw another add for an S6 for 50 quid a month.

              from what I can tell that's the sort of deal most people are on. I suspect your wife is very unusual in having a fully paid for mobile phone.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Self-inflicted @AC

                "go to ee.co.uk. Biggest ad seems to be for "iPhone 5c WITH WIFI CALLING" for £21.99 a month. I saw another add for an S6 for 50 quid a month."

                Do you think the cellcos are likely to advertise what sells by the truckload but makes them little money, or what they'd like you to buy because its trendy and makes them truckloads of money now and in the future if they actually get you to sign up?

                How many people do you think have PAYG mobiles these days? Other than business users, I don't know anybody that still has a contract mobile. Now maybe I'm unrepresentative, but you could be too.

              2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                Re: Self-inflicted @AC

                "I suspect your wife is very unusual in having a fully paid for mobile phone."

                Maybe, maybe not. Lots of people are on SIM only deals which implies contract-expired, bought outright or even second hand phones are more common than we may think. Now that some operators are separating out the HP agreement cost of the phone from the service contract, people are starting to notice the sometimes high cost of the phone and the "free" upgrade every two years.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Meh

              Re: Self-inflicted @AC

              PAYG £10 per several months - cheap phone £10

            3. PNGuinn
              FAIL

              Re: Self-inflicted @John Brown

              £5 per MONTH? My wife's mobile costs £5 per 3 months (as does mine) and any unused credit stays on the account.

              Obviously you are one of the 1 1/2%ers.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Coat

            Re: Self-inflicted @AC

            sky dishes also make fine salad bowels, I tried one as a Wok but it melted

          3. herman Silver badge

            Re: Self-inflicted @AC

            "Get rid of blingy phone" - How is she supposed to get customers then - stand on a street corner like in the good old days?

        2. Vince

          Re: Self-inflicted @AC

          "Whilst I cannot fault your logic, experience tells me that there are a lot of people who rely on a single bank account, through which all of their salary/tax credits/child benefit is paid."

          ...the issue isn't the bank account, but the lack of having budgeted adequately that you have no money AND no essentials - like electric/heat and food ... all kinds of stuff could happen preventing you getting money out that day, so having "a plan" wouldn't be a bad idea.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Self-inflicted

        Now wait a moment. Maybe the problem is that she should have been dicking about on twitter sooner, rather than dicking about ...Err, well, you get my point.

        1. LucreLout
          Joke

          Re: Self-inflicted

          Maybe the problem is that she should have been dicking about on twitter sooner, rather than dicking about ...

          Outrageous! Twitter would have limited her to having 140 characters.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Self-inflicted

        "Sorry but it is inexcusable not to have a contingency plan with 3 children, even one that doesn't involve money (relatives/friends)."

        She just sounds like another breeding jobless chav relying on government handouts to pay for her kids.

        1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge
          Mushroom

          Re: Self-inflicted @boltar

          What part of "about one in five households receive tax credits" that I said earlier don't you understand.

          These are mostly normal people, often with both adults in work, challenged by circumstance. Some may be deliberately playing the system, but most aren't. They are just relying on the system to provide what they're told they are entitled to, and using this income to plan their expenditure.

          I don't know what you expect these people to do if their circumstances change for the worst. Once, they may well have been able to easily support three children. If they've lost income as a result of losing their jobs and having to move to lower paid ones, or accepting pay cuts in order to keep their jobs, the family breaking up or any of a number of different things, their financial situation could have got worse since they had the children.

          Are you an advocate of turning the kids out of the home if you struggle to provide for them? The Victorian foundling homes and orphanages? The work house? Or maybe euthanize them? Come on, let us know.

          We don't know this woman's situation, so don't just brand her a chav. because you're a smug bastard who has never been in that sort of situation. She may be in work and still be entitled to these tax credits.

          Oh, and by the way. In order to achieve a stable population, what with non-reproducing members, it is necessary for some families to have more than two kids. Three is not only quite normal, but absolutely essential to compensate for people who die having never had children. IIRC, the average number of kids per couple needed to keep the population stable is regarded as somewhere between 2.3 and 2.4.

          If everybody was forced to enter heterosexual relationships and have two kids, the population would still fall as a result of natural mortality and infertility. IIRC, the last two or three UK censuses show that discounting people who come in to the UK from abroad who are often young and have children while they are here, the UK population would be falling. And this has serious implications on government finances in the future.

          1. Triggerfish

            Re: Self-inflicted @boltar

            But Boltar you sound like one of the commentards frm the mail, who make up a back story for someone you know nothing about to justify your own predjudice

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Self-inflicted

        "resolve their individual cases themselves"

        What? You can do that? Whodathunkit?

      2. Buzzword

        Re: Self-inflicted

        >"does make me wonder whether they made any effort to resolve their individual cases themselves before spamming the internet with their rants"

        Companies seem to react faster to bad news posted on social media than to bad news communicated directly to them. Last month I tried to tell a major company that its website had a broken FAQ link. I used the "send a message" functionality on their website; they emailed back failing to understand the problem, so I phoned them and got the standard script: "What is your account number?" "I don't have a bloody account, I was trying to research whether to open one!"; and after three follow-up emails I gave up.

    4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Self-inflicted

      Neither can she blame them for her being one of their customers.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Self-inflicted

      She seems to think she's more important than everybody else because she managed to pump out three kids she couldn't afford.

      Seriously, who doesn't have a credit card for emergencies?

      1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge
        Stop

        Re: Self-inflicted @AC

        Maybe she can afford them, but relies too heavily on the services of other people to be able to get at her assets. This is looking like a personal vendetta, AC. Do you know her personally?

        Lots of people don't have credit cards because they can't get them. Mainstream lenders nowadays are very risk averse, and will not give credit cards to people they think may not be able to afford them (this is what they are being told to do by the financial regulators).

        Why do you think there are/were so many pay-day lenders about?

        Get off your hight horse and look at the real world!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Self-inflicted @AC

          Different @AC's, I'm one of the parent posters.

          She can't afford them as she's complaining she can't put gas on her meter without her tax credit payment.

          1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge
            Mushroom

            Re: Self-inflicted @AC

            Her tax credit payment is part of her regular income. As such, she, along with many others, will rely on it to plan their spending. If she's on part-time working or a zero hours contract, it may be one of the few bits of regular income she gets. Why should she not rely on being able to draw on it once it's been paid.

            Don't think that for these people, a tax credit is a bonus or a windfall. It's (again) regular, weekly or monthly income.

            What the hell do you think she's supposed to use it for? A holiday!

            Go talk to some real people rather than guessing at their circumstances.

            Oh, and if you want to be regarded as distinct from all of the other myriad of AC posters, why not set up a meaningless handle and post under that. El Reg will still know who you are whether you post AC or not, but nobody else will. That way we can differentiate from all the ACs who post similar sounding comments.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Self-inflicted @AC

              f off

            2. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

              Re: Self-inflicted @AC

              I was thinking about why I was getting downvotes, and it occurred to me that there may be people who don't know what tax credits are in the UK.

              They are basically part of the welfare system which is supposed to return tax to workers in low paid jobs, depending on their circumstances. This is supposed to encourage people to keep working in these low paid jobs, rather than giving up and moving to what used to be called unemployment benefit, now jobseekers allowance and income protection support.

              The idea was that it would reduce the amount of money paid in benefit, but instead what it does is trap people in low paid jobs that they can't afford to give up, but which offer them no chance of improving.

              In many cases, what this does, if treated at face value, is that low paid workers pay negative tax, meaning that not only do they not pay tax, but they get money back.

              Something like 5,000,000 families in the UK receive some tax credits, according to government figures, and all households with children which do not have a higher rate tax payer will also receive child benefit.

              It is part of the complex tax system that we have in the UK, as envisioned by that <irony>financial wizard</irony> Gordon Brown. I would prefer to see a system where people did not need this level of support (because it's regressive and unfair), and because what it really shows is that either wages are too low, or cost of living is too high in the UK for a significant part of the population.

              So, as I said, tax credits are not a windfall, they are part of the regular income in about 1 in 5 of all households in the UK (based on the previous figure, and the total number of households in the UK). This is why it's important. Families rely on it's timely arrival for all sorts of things including food and fuel. That is why this woman is upset.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Self-inflicted @AC

                "I was thinking about why I was getting downvotes"

                Because sometimes people enjoy baiting bleeding heart liberal views when their initial intention was to make a wry social comment?

              2. Triggerfish

                Re: Self-inflicted @AC

                I upvoted you I have to agree, tax credits are definite income.

                I think we have problems such as benefits traps, institutionalization of people on the dole things like that. Problem with a lot of these things is (and not sure how you easily solve this) that a broad stroke rule is applied because of general administration yet people and families, and even locations tend to be individual.

              3. Hollerith 1

                Re: Self-inflicted @AC

                Thank you for educating those, mostly AC, who do not have a clue. I find the most vicious attacks, at least IRL, come from people who have never known a day's want or a day's fear over money. I have friend who had to decide, ever few months, whether to eat or have heating, because she was in a low-low paid job (once she could get while being disabled) and couldn't manage both. I have never faced utter hardship, but her experience taught me to shut the fuck up, and I heartily endorse this course of action to my other commentards who have never walked the poverty walk.

          2. Vince

            Re: Self-inflicted @AC

            That's what the "emergency" mode is for. Unfortunately some people use it as "use all the time mode" - and then end up with a problem when they have an "emergency".

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: emergency mode

              You call it "emergency" and describe it as sensible planning, and say that to do otherwise is foolish. You could be right.

              When a modern-thinking business adopts the same tactic for its purchases and deliveries (don't waste money simply to have a buffer in place), it's supposedly a piece of corporate magick called Just In Time.

              Just sayin'.

              1. Triggerfish

                Re: emergency mode

                It's also very easy if you are one of the low paid in this country to end up living pretty much hand to mouth, or running on a zero break even point. Cash for contingencies can be a rare thing.

                People end up learning weird habits from being poor because of it, the Vimes 'Boots' theory of socioeconomic unfairness” is an example of one of these things.

  5. LucreLout

    It'll keep happening....

    When, as will almost certainly be the case, this tracks back to some inexperienced and unsuitably skilled offshorian, can we pretty please have the regulator focus more on bank IT?

    I've worked in finance for about 15 years now, and in that time more and more jobs have travelled overseas, where the quality of the software development has fallen far faster than the cost of provision. I've dealt with admin teams that simply don't understand the products they're responsible for, and basic fault diagnosis and rectification are beyond them.

    Systems and services have now degraded to the point where they are all but unusable. I've lost count of the number of RabbitMQ/other setups I've seen because the IBM MQ guys don't deliver a timely and accessible service; the number of bespoke job schedulers because the Autosys team don't understand AutoSys; and more recently, the rise and rise of Open Source NoSQL being used where RDBMS are more appropriate, because the Oracle and SQL Server teams can't deliver.

    There are so many talented onshore people with the requisite skills that could be doing the job properly. Yes, they will cost a bit more, but then, so does an experienced and qualified doctor, or an appropriately trained pilot.

    Banks will cut costs until systems fail continuously, or until the regulator says STOP. As the economy very much does need the banks to work, its time for the regulators to up their game.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It'll keep happening....

        In Denmark, it happens every 3 months or so. Salaries and pensions just not making it into accounts on pay day due to some ill-defined IT-problem. Some people are getting this idea that there is perhaps a cash-flow problem buried inside one or two of the major banks and they using the incoming payments to show that reserves are adequate - for a few hours, just while the automated checks are running.

        It's of course nothing to worry about - the bank sector is healthy, HEALTHY - Dammit!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It'll keep happening....

      The big upgrade cock up was due to UK staff last time, and it was a UK person this time.

      Fact.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: It'll keep happening....

          "Same principle applies - businesses want to employ the cheap labour who don't know how to do the job, leaving the knowledgeable ones who can, but demand a higher wage, on the shelf."

          It's just not the case, the most knowledgeable ones, the highest paid - with decades of experience, who don't leave because of the investment in their fat index linked pensions broke it, and couldn't fix it quickly.

          "When, as will almost certainly be the case, this tracks back to some inexperienced and unsuitably skilled offshorian, can we pretty please have the regulator focus more on bank IT?"

          We need to stop blaming people just because they are off shore at every opportunity, and it wasn't due to them anyway.

      2. LucreLout

        Re: It'll keep happening.... @AC

        The big upgrade cock up was due to UK staff last time, and it was a UK person this time. Fact.

        If you're going to represent your statements as facts please include a citation.

        My post was an opinion based only on 20+ years professional experience, though it seems to be a reasonably widely shared opinion, hence no citation.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: It'll keep happening.... @AC who thinks it was a UK person last time

          I'm AC as I'm a former RBS.

          The first big incident was a junior Indian who was part of a junior team which had taken over from a group of 8 (I seem to remember) long term UK national RBS employees. At the time the 'inexperienced' excuse was used to give a reason and to try and take blame away from the fact that over a 3 year period some 2500 UK based IT workers had been made unemployed and replaced with a larger number of Indian IT staff based in Gurgaon near Delhi. It was not UK staff.

          Before the off-shoring there were incidents, but all hardware based, and RBS actually was good at updating their systems and solutions (another excuse seen used was archaic architecture - not so unless you're talking the change management system). Since the majority of IT has been off-shored (think the internal term was right-shored) to India there has been 2 or 3 major incidents, all Indian staff related. Whether this one is the same or not I don't actually know as I've not pinged ex-colleagues who are still there, on top of which RBS probably keeps tight control on the incident management system as the logs of what were happening on the first big cock up (CA scheduling) were available to all internal staff for a good while after the issues had become public.

          There can be no excuse for inexperience now as it has been ~3 years since the 'right-shoring' was completed, and around 6-7 years since Gurgaon was opened and started to be staffed (as initially RBS replaced contractors with Indian workers).

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: It'll keep happening.... @AC

          I'm not the same person as the one you're responding to but it should be obvious that it's a bit hard to do what you're asking, because including a citation reveals either who you are or who you know who leaked the information. Neither of these are really sensible things to do.

          1. LucreLout

            Re: It'll keep happening.... @ new AC

            including a citation reveals either who you are or who you know who leaked the information

            Perhaps then, they could stop representing their unsubstantiated opinions as "fact"?

            I know several semi-senior people at RBS and everything they told me about the last incident and this one are reflective both of what I wrote, and what the subsequent AC said about offshoring to India. I provided no citations for the reasons you've given which is why I presented my view as an opinion rather than fact.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: It'll keep happening.... @AC

          If you're going to represent your statements as facts please include a citation.

          My post was an opinion based only on 20+ years professional experience, though it seems to be a reasonably widely shared opinion, hence no citation.

          My citation is me, I have direct first hand knowledge of both events, my facts trump your opinion.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: It'll keep happening....

      "NoSQL being used where RDBMS are more appropriate"

      I'm beginning to suspect this is because of modern development methodologies. Don't bother to work out what you need, just dick with it till it's right, fix it in the next sprint & all that.

      You can do that with code, no problem, but once a database is deployed & populated it becomes a pig to have to reorg large amounts of data. Cue DBAs taking the cattle-prod to the devs.

      If you're going to use RDBMS you have to design (shock horror!) first so that what goes out into production can stay there with as few changes as possible for as long as possible.

      1. LucreLout

        Re: It'll keep happening....

        I'm beginning to suspect this is because of modern development methodologies

        I hadn't spent a long time considering that. You may be right, but I manage 2 weeks sprints while deploying variously to Oracle or SQL Server. I just have a local instance of SQL Server for the "dick[ing] with it till it's right", and prepare proper release scripts for the bi-weekly migration to uat / prod.

        Had you said it was because of POORLY EXECUTED modern development methodologies, I suspect we'd have been in complete agreement.

        Migrating large amounts of data can be a pig, but our DBAs are more than up to the task if they're given sufficient notice to prepare, and as you rightly say, upfront design can mitigate a lot of the problems (and it can do so without knackering properly implemented agile projects).

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: It'll keep happening....

          "Migrating large amounts of data can be a pig, but our DBAs are more than up to the task if they're given sufficient notice to prepare"

          I can testify to that. I've spent a few weekends doing that when the client's vendor released updates. As the site was warehousing it meant having the business clear a weekend so it needs more than simply IT planning.

          Fortunately it didn't happen too often and, after all, it was billable ;)

    4. hplasm
      Meh

      Re: It'll keep happening....

      Because to fix it costs money, and Exec Yachts must get forever bigger. ^H^H^H^H^H show growth year on year...

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It'll keep happening....

      As someone else pointed out: problem was a UK person last time and also a UK person this time. The cause was also unrelated. Sorry to spoil your rant.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It'll keep happening....

      "As the economy very much does need the banks to work"

      It has been shown that simple retail transaction-processing banking isn't that complicated, especially if you forget about the opportunities for cross-selling, up-selling, and so on and just focus on money in and money out reliably and without hassle.

      So we do need one or two banks to work to enable Joe Public to do his routine stuff, but there's no fundamental reason they have to be the banks we have today, and plenty of reasons why it *shouldn't* be the banks we have today.

      I bring you: National Giro II, aka Girobank: The Return. Girobank::ONE was so good it had to be sold off and then shut down, or it would have killed the high street banks (which duly closed most of their branches anyway because they allegedly don't make enough money from branches to even pay the near-negligible fines for the stuff the branches mis-sold).

  6. cantankerous swineherd Silver badge

    isn't about time these fuckers were put out of business?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      ssshhh!

      Gotta wait until we offload our shares (albeit at a £7bn loss) first.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      great idea! Let's write off £45 billion of taxpayers money!

  7. JimmyPage
    FAIL

    NatWest are not a bank ....

    they are an IT house which does banking.

    This was the almost unanimous verdict of El Reg readers discussing the 2012 failure. With a clarion call that bean counters recognise that IT (and it associated infrastructure) are essential components of their operation, not an ancillary part which can be hived off, like the catering.

    I really hope any journalist on the receiving end of a "Lessons have been learned" puff piece, just finish off by turning to camera saying "no they haven't".

    We need a "FAIL" icon big enough to spread over 2 monitors.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: NatWest are not a bank ....

      "they are an IT house which does banking."

      Sadly, not true. That's what they ought to be. It's what all banks ought to be. But are any of them? For an example of a bank's IT competence take this example from First Direct's page of what you need for internet banking:

      modem (minimum speed 56kbp).

      Please note: PCs and Macs connected to Local Area Networks are not supported.

      Nobody told them that these days home users' PCs & Macs are normally connected to the net by ADSL or FTTC via wired or wireless LAN.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: First Direct

        "PCs and Macs connected to Local Area Networks are not supported."

        In all the years I've been a First Direct customer, I've never come across that statement before.

        Good job I've not seen it really, because all my PCs laptops mobiles etc use a LAN from time to time to access First Direct on the web, and it's worked at least as well as most IT systems I use routinely. Never needed to call support either.

        Other banks may vary. (I tried Nationwide briefly at one stage, but was not impressed).

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: First Direct

          My mortgage is with Nationwide - they were sending me texts accepting me before they had even got the documentation, and have NEVER asked to be named on my house insurance. They also have a reputation for dragging their heels so people lose the house they were trying to buy.

          I get the the impression they are cheerfully inept, rather than just evil.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: NatWest are not a bank ....

        "Nobody told them that these days home users' PCs & Macs are normally connected to the net by ADSL or FTTC via wired or wireless LAN."

        I think your assumption there is 'normally'.

        There are still cases in rural areas where users can only get dial up access, given these customers are less likely to have access to a 'branch' and more dependent on online service I think it is entirely valid to point the access limitations out. It has little to do with IT competence and more to do with effective customer communication.

        I have been through a few banks in my time and if that is the biggest criticism that can be leveled at them, where can I sign up!

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: NatWest are not a bank ....

          "There are still cases in rural areas where users can only get dial up access, given these customers are less likely to have access to a 'branch' and more dependent on online service"

          This is First Direct. Online & telephone is what it does.

          "It has little to do with IT competence and more to do with effective customer communication."

          And what this communication tells me speaks volumes about its approach to customers. It might be misinformation but its the information it provides and that's what you need to rely on.

          There's a back-story to this. I used to be a Midland group customer for about 40 years and happy to be so despite the fact that as HSBC their business banking group couldn't get their heads round the fact that if they wanted to ring me up they needed to prove that they were who they said rather than demanding I prove who I was before starting their sales pitch... I digress.

          Two things went wrong eventually. One was that they closed the branch at which I preferred to do business. The other, which is more relevant here, there was a little problem with the credit card payment system. Paying off a credit card appeared to be a duct-tape job. I'm pretty sure it handed over from one system to another half way through. One night, fairly late on, trying to find a time when systems might not be busy, I tried to pay off the card & the hand-over failed; I got an empty document message on the browser. So I decided, as one sysadmin to another, to give them a friendly heads-up that they might have a problem. They wanted to know the S/W I was using. I got a very snotty reply that they didn't support my combination of OS & browser - which had worked perfectly, which I was quite happy to support and which was nothing to do with the problem they had which I was trying to tip them off about (& may well have been an overnight run slowing down the response). This was eventually confirmed by letter & in due course I went elsewhere. Before I switched I checked on other banks, asking where there wasn't a statement online, and no other bank I looked at seemed to give a toss about customer's OS.

          After a couple more banks have closed their more convenient branches it's now more or less a level playing field from that point of view so I decided to give HSBC in the form of FD another go. Based on that previous experience, and knowing that in the past the FD website had stated the same policy, I checked first. Their S/W requirements have changed in the interim but that LAN statement has now appeared. I'm awaiting clarification because from that experience I wouldn't put it past them to use the fact that I'm not on a serial link to a dial-up modem to wriggle out of any problem.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: NatWest are not a bank ....

            OK, so its not the biggest criticism you can level at them. It doesn't change the fact that they are attempting to communicate with the customer, even if it is a limitation. A few words for those who can be bothered to read are going to save some users major frustrations?

            I have yet to see them appear in the media having to explain away a widespread missed payments clusterf**k!

  8. JimmyPage
    WTF?

    Fool me once, shame on you etc ...

    oh, and another thing ...

    would it be fair to presume all these people twitterplaining (a new verb wot I have invented, hoping it will catch on) have only had accounts since 2012 ? Because what about the 2012 cock-up wasn't quite bad enough for you to have moved your accounts ?

    In which case, the question has to be : you opened your account, after the last car-crash cock-up

    Why ???????

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Fool me once, shame on you etc ...

      "In which case, the question has to be : you opened your account, after the last car-crash cock-up

      Why ???????"

      A naive hope that "lessons have been learned?"

      1. LucreLout

        Re: Fool me once, shame on you etc ...

        A naive hope that "lessons have been learned?"

        Lessons are only learned when people get fired. Absent that, nothing changes. And even then, if you continue hiring new people because they are cheap (which is the only reason anyone ever offshored anything anywhere), then you'll continue getting low quality.

    2. Nigel Whitfield.

      Re: Fool me once, shame on you etc ...

      For some people, if they do want a branch where they might be able to pay in cheques or money conveniently, they may not have a great choice, especially in small towns or rural areas.

      And, some on low incomes may be further constrained by which banks are willing to open accounts for them.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Branches ?.

        The only time I have needed to go near a branch was after some ****ing cretin managed to ignore my explicit request to refund my account by bank transfer (which is how they get their money) and send me a ****ing cheque instead.

        Apart from that, what's a branch ? I can do everything (easier() online, including (3 months ago) changing mortgages. With *zero* human interaction. And if all else fails, there is a phone,.

        Point taken about low incomes, with the massive caveat that I doubt RBS are the only bank that would service low-income accounts.

    3. What of IT?

      Re: Fool me once, shame on you etc ...

      How about "Twinging" surely that has a better ring to it?

  9. Admiral Grace Hopper

    Not up to it.

    I moved my account after the last farrago. NatWest was a well-run bank before it is acquired by RBS.

    1. mangobrain

      Re: Not up to it.

      Any recommendations for where to move? I have been lucky so far, neither the 2012 outage nor this outage have really affected me... but on the basis that it is only a matter of time, I should begin the migration process.

      (By which I mean open a new account elsewhere and change my bank details everywhere I can think of myself, one by one, and waiting to see that it has taken effect before closing the old one - this kind of pain is why I didn't do it in 2012, but I would put no trust in either the source or destination to handle this on my behalf.)

      1. Admiral Grace Hopper

        Re: Not up to it.

        Not knowing your requirements it's difficult to advise, but I went with Nationwide as there are no shareholders (it's the last mutual on my high street) and the IT is based in Swindon. Your mileage, as ever, is variable.

      2. johnaaronrose

        Re: Not up to it. Santander recommended

        I was a Girobank customer from 1970. I was then 'moved' to Alliance & Leicester and then to Santander. No problem with any of them.

    2. Ilmarinen
      Meh

      Re: Not up to it.

      Agree. I've still got my main account there, but only because I can remember all the numbers, etc. off the top of my head. They are Corporately Incompetant, but so are most corporations. Pity they can't be brought to suffer the fate of Carthage realy, but these days some corporations are "too big to fail".

  10. llaryllama

    Surely I can't be the only one worrying..

    .. about the number of people with such poor financial literacy that they are literally a day away from being unable to buy food or basic utilities?

    1. AndyS

      Re: Surely I can't be the only one worrying..

      The last time RBS did this it affected all payments, in and out. So it wasn't about whether you had money, but whether you could access it.

      I worked with a guy who banked with Ulster, who had plenty of money but for around two weeks his debit card wouldn't work, his account made no payments, and he couldn't get cash out. His family loaned him cash to keep going, but he defaulted on his rent, on his car payment, etc.

      One day shouldn't cause the world to melt, but a week or two will cause serious problems for anyone with regular payments.

    2. Peter Gathercole Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Surely I can't be the only one worrying..

      It may not be illiteracy. It may be circumstance, often forced upon them. For example, if you rent a property now, it is very likely it will have an electricity pre-pay meter. The utility companies don't like rental properties having credit agreements (which is what a monthly or quarterly bill effectively is).

      Have you never been in a situation where you've been waiting for a credit into your bank account before doing something? Well, that's what these people are doing, but they're doing it for food and fuel.

      Just because you have the means to keep a financial buffer does not mean that everybody does.

      If my primary bank account became unavailable to me for whatever reason for more than a few days at certain times of the month, I could be embarrassed by mortgage and other regular payments bouncing. Hungry, maybe not, but definitely unhappy enough to complain, especially when Twitter makes it so easy!

      I think many people on this forum are complacent in their relative financial comfort. We've frequently commented to each other that the readership here are pretty unrepresentative of the population in general. This really is another aspect of this.

      1. TonyJ Silver badge

        Re: Surely I can't be the only one worrying..

        "I think many people on this forum are complacent in their relative financial comfort. We've frequently commented to each other that the readership here are pretty unrepresentative of the population in general. This really is another aspect of this"

        I couldn't agree more. I have been in a similar situation in the past where, thankfully many years ago now, I had to wait to replace the burst tyre on my car and drove with the space saver spare on it until pay day.

        As I'm trying to get my son to understand "It may only be a tenner...but if you don't have it, it's suddenly a lot of money"

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re:

      "Surely I can't be the only one worrying about the number of people with such poor financial literacy that they are literally a day away from being unable to buy food or basic utilities?" -- llaryllama

      Some of it is about relative poverty rather than financial illiteracy. I know several people who have the mental ability to do financial planning, but not the money to do it with. Whenever they have money, it's just because there's things they need but haven't yet bought and bills they owe they haven't yet paid.

      In any case, you might have fifty quid in your wallet but when one child reminds you they need a week's dinner money, another tells you of a school trip they forgot to mention and the money is due today, and your fuel light comes on, you can be out of cash pretty quickly. And I almost never carry more than fifty, or keep it in the house, even on a larger income than some of these people.

      It's a generational thing: the old didn't trust the banks and kept it in the house (viz. various horror stories about *thousands* being stolen from OAP); us middle aged people started handling money in the time between the first ATMs and the first bank cock-ups. Until the last few years, if you couldn't get your money, it was because the ATM was broken and you needed to find another one, not because of a bank wide error. Don't you remember how inconceivable that was? Errors happened to individual accounts, sure, but not this sort of thing. The next generation will probably go back to keeping cash in the house (although discouraged by police advice and insurance policies) or having multiple bank accounts (although the banks try everything to get you to use just their services).

    4. LucreLout

      Re: Surely I can't be the only one worrying..

      such poor financial literacy that they are literally a day away from being unable to buy food or basic utilities

      I'm highly financially literate (after about 10 years profligacy in my youth) and getting to a comfortable level of wealth. If the payments system went down such that I couldn't use my debit/credit cards then I'd have nothing to eat for lunch [1], and dinner would be dependant on my wifes forward planning.

      Having looked in my wallet, I have no cash. I rarely need or use it these days. I have plenty of money, but none in my hand. Ok, our utilities are all on contract, so that shouldn't be an issue, but most people, me included, aren't very well prepared for significant disruption to the ordinary flow of money.

      You may, or course, feel free to call me financially illiterate, but I'll expect that you're doing significantly better than me for the charge to stick.

      [1] Having considered this for a while I've realised that Nandos might owe me a free chicken, so I should be ok for lunch, but I'm not sure that implies any preparation or acumen on my part.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Quality

    I worked with some of the NatWest I/T people, and found them to be highly qualified, quite intelligent, and extremely devoted to doing a quality job. Of course, that was over 15 years ago. I can't attest to what's happened since then.

    Anon E. Mus

  12. Kool-Aid drinker

    So do we know the cause yet?

    I'm guessing it was a failed batch-processing module upgrade, but someone out there must know what happened, so please tell the hungry readers of El Reg.

    Can we also be advised whether the 'glitch' was caused by an offshore team please?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nationwide

    After Halifax pissed me off big time, I moved to Nationwide. I have no idea whether they are any less or more competent than anyone else. However:

    1) They're not, and never will be chasing shareholder approval. Just yours.

    2) Their IT is mainly UK-based (I don't work for them, so can't be definitive).

    The reason I left Halifax, was having had their overdraft changes cost me an unexpected few quid, I called to get a very sniffy Scots lady tell me that "I couldn't expect to borrow money, and not repay it". This was the very day HBOS were bailed out to billions. I agreed with her, and replied with "fair dos, you call your loan in, I'll call mine in. I'm closing my account.". Walked into town and did it within the hour.

    cnuts.

    1. Kool-Aid drinker

      Re: Nationwide

      I've been with Nationwide for over 20 years without any major problems. I don't work for them either, but they do seem to be less prone to glitches than the rest of the muppets.

    2. rqwreq

      Re: Nationwide

      Doing some work for Nationwide at the moment, I'm considering moving my current account to them.

      Their resilience is superb in the area of their core banking IT infrastructure.

    3. david bates

      Re: Nationwide

      I'm avoiding Lloyds/HBOS. I closed my IF account and credit card over a year ago. Since then they've sent me a NEW credit card...noone can tell me what account that was linked to and how it was sent, and have now started sending me statements for an account that no longer exists and understandably has no transactions....

      1. Hollerith 1

        Re: Nationwide

        Oooo, I thought that was just me and IF. Glad I wasn't being singled out.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Nationwide

      " ... a very sniffy Scots lady tell me that "I couldn't expect to borrow money, and not repay it" --AC

      Love it when they take the moral high ground. My bank did that to me, they weren't a bailee but they did say my account had not been run properly. I said, I see what you mean, I've put a half a mil through this account over the last decade and it's sometimes been several hundred overdrawn. You, on the other hand, have been done for laundering drug money, fixing inter bank lending rates, and miss-selling.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Nationwide

      "2) Their IT is mainly UK-based (I don't work for them, so can't be definitive)."

      No, they're slowly switching it out to IBM & Microsoft etc (abroad) department by department.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Only way to solve this is vote with your money

    Take it out and go to another bank.

    It would cripple the bank and force it to close or fix it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Only way to solve this is vote with your money

      Except this is Britain, where people seem to enjoy having a bad service to complain about, rather than do anything about it (see UK government).

      My father is *not* British. A fact kids at school liked to remind me of, in the un-PC 1970s. One of the starkest demonstrations of this came in the late 1970s, when (funnily enough) Nat West decided they couldn't "allow" my father to invest his money, in his business, I can't report what was said, as I was sitting outside in the car.

      What I *saw* was my father exiting the bank (apparently having told the manager he was closing his account and moving it to Barclays who were across the road) followed by a 3-piece suited bank manager screaming at my Dad about bloody foreigners who come over here, and don't understand you can't just change bank accounts. Ensuing conversations with family friends revealed that middle-class England sided with the manager ...

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Only way to solve this is vote with your money

        "Ensuing conversations with family friends revealed that middle-class England sided with the manager"

        This middle-class England sides with your dad.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Only way to solve this is vote with your money

      "Take it out and go to another bank. It would cripple the bank and force it to close or fix it."

      You don't seriously believe this do you? I mean, in principle it's a great idea, but in practice it seems far more likely that something like a mass Twitting campaign followed by mainstream media coverage stands more chance of success. And even then, it's still a small chance.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Only way to solve this is vote with your money

        "in principle it's a great idea"

        The reason it's not in practice is that the banks have spent years in a race to the bottom. Now consider what happens if customers regularly move accounts in response to bad service. All it would be one bank to realise that if they made serious efforts to improve service they'd gradually capture the market. Eventually the other banks would catch on & there would be a race to the top.

        As customers we can't directly impart that realisation to a bank but by keeping that churn going we can present the opportunity.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Only way to solve this is vote with your money

      Yep, I'm gonna take my debt elsewhere, that will sort them out!

      1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: Only way to solve this is vote with your money

        It sure will.

        They charge you a fair % for your being in debt to them.

        The size of the debt really makes no odds, its those charges they are after.

        Move to another bank and that bank will make money from your debt rather the shoddy bunch of idiots you are currently with.

      2. LucreLout

        Re: Only way to solve this is vote with your money

        Yep, I'm gonna take my debt elsewhere, that will sort them out!

        Your debt is their assets. My assets are their debt. You have more power than you realise.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Only way to solve this is vote with your money

          Yep, I was fully aware of that, just wondering if anyone else here was. Still not an effective solution though as I guarantee that not one or even all subscribers to this site would make a dent in a main street bank's cash flow if they decided to migrate assets or debts.

          That is whole point of a bank, stability through size.

          Only people likely to have any influence are shareholders or government, so either start buying shares or run for public office if you really want to change them. Otherwise move to make your personal statement or suck it up and wait a few days for your money.

  15. Alister

    Interesting that the article headline is NatWest IT cock-up.

    As I understand it, none of the RBS businesses are handling transactions at the moment - including Coutts, Ulster Bank, RBS and NatWest.

    So more of an RBS cock-up, really.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Guess the branch

    Can we play "Guess the branch?" from the photo?

    Looks like Library Place, Jersey

    https://www.google.com/maps/@49.184149,-2.107216,3a,75y,53.17h,96.81t/

    but the stonework doesn't look quite right and for all I know there could be many others around the UK - I don't leave this island very often!

  17. RW

    "We apologize"

    Empty words.

    It's time to start holding senior management, from the CEO down, personally (and financially) responsible for cockups like this.

    1. david bates

      Re: "We apologize"

      Aye - they had one on PM...Eddie Mair pointed out that if a customer missed a payment the bank would charge them £6, and asked why customers shouldn't invoice that bank for a similar amount...

      Answers ranged from "we will make sure customers are not out of pocket" all the way up to "that would not be appropriate"....which tells you all you need to know.

      There needs to be a run on RBS.

      1. LucreLout

        Re: "We apologize" @David Bates

        There needs to be a run on RBS.

        I work in finance but not for RBS, so I have to be very careful about statements such as yours.

        However, given that RBS group seem to have persistent and repeated problems, caused wholly by rampant and excessive offshoring [1], I'm at a loss to understand why people would remain with them after this. Moving bank accounts is now fairly trivial and the problem is wholly localised to their group.

        I eagerly await the CEO pointing at some building in Scotland and again denying the problem is caused by offshoring, stating "the computer that broke down is in there". Well, yes, but Rajkumar who dropped your message queue was sat in Delhi and connecting from there.

        [1] Lost knowledge is now lost. Hiring experienced on shore staff will turn the problem around, but it will still take time. RBS won't do that until it starts costing them more money than they save with offshoring or until the regulator wakes up and smells the coffee.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    four days to recover?

    does anyone know why it's going to take until saturday to restore transactions? surely there's a process for injecting missed transactions into the overnight batch before then? (appreciate there will be interest and complaint adjustments but those would be case by case).

  19. Conundrum1885

    Re. Four days to recover

    There is the problem of "What happens if next time outgoing payments are affected, resulting in rent/insurance/utility/etc payments bouncing" ?

    It shakes my confidence in the whole banking system when a screwup of this magnitude happens.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    Natwest Account

    Some time ago I had a NatWest Account they annoyed me by denying me access to my own money (complicated) and looked like they were going to be awkward if I moved Banks (a while ago I said) so I cashed out at the till took the folding stuff and walked down the street and opened a new account - even then having the readies in your sweaty little hands sped things along. Never going to go back.

  21. Zog The Undeniable

    The trouble in situations like this is that you can't just try a fix and see if it works, since that might result in duplicated payments, payments going to the wrong accounts etc. It's not like trying to get a Quake II server back online. Any fix has to be extensively tested because, once the money is in an account, it may well be gone for ever, So four days, while not reasonable from the customer's POV, is par for the course.

    I'm not making apologies for GnatWest of course; they need to test their changes properly. IT failures are only usually caused by one of two factors:

    1. Breakdown of the infrastructure (server goes pop, data centre floods) for which you can and should have contingency, if the application is critical

    2. Someone changed something and didn't test it enough.

  22. JimmyPage
    Holmes

    Idle speculation ...

    For such a bug story, things have gone quiet on this ...

    I have a sneaking suspicion that whatever the cause, it's somehow related to the 2012 outage. In particular to the fact that the minute the regulator had turned their back, all the "promises" (i.e. "lessons learned") disappeared into thin air, and it was back to BAU ...

    Which would lead to an interesting future for RBS ... if a £56,000,000 fine wasn't enough* to teach them a lesson first time, how much should it be this time ? And will it cause the FCA to contemplate stiffer fines a priori - on the justifiable grounds that otherwise they'll be ignored.

    And what's all of this doing to Gorgeous Georges plans for flogging off RBS ? How much sweeter will he need to make the deal, if any prospective buyer thinks they're buying into a future of cock-ups ?

    *sounds a stiff fine - unless the outrage saved a few hundred million, in which case it's the cost of doing business.

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