back to article Smile? Not bloody likely: Day 6 of wobbly services and still no hint to UK online bank's customers about what's actually wrong

If a digital bank is unable to regularly provide online banking services, at what point does it cease to be a digital bank? Some disgruntled customers of Smile, a trading division of the Co-Operative Bank, may be posing this very question after five full days of woe. Reports of discontent began to flood into Twitter, that well …

  1. Mike 137 Silver badge

    "for we like sheep ..."

    This is far from exceptional. It amazes me how we've been conditioned to accept such crap levels of service. A couple of decades back we'd have done rather more than complain in the twitsphere - we'd have abandoned service providers in droves. Even now, if bricks and mortar businesses exhibited the current levels of unreliability of "digital" services, I'd expect riots.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: "for we like sheep ..."

      "we've been conditioned to accept such crap levels of service"

      Who is "we", Kemosabe?

      No online banking for me, not now, not in the past, and not in the future. Where is it written that day to day banking needs have to be immediately available at one's fingertips? What is the point, other than as a bandaid/plaster over piss-poor planning and/or bad decision making on the part of the account holder?

      And no, it won't save you money by spotting your bank's error sooner ... banks are required by law to make you whole if they make a mistake. So you can stop nervously eyeballing your account information every hour or so, or even every day. There really is no point. Shirley you have better things to do with your time?

      1. IGotOut Silver badge

        Re: "for we like sheep ..."

        "There really is no point. Shirley you have better things to do with your time?"

        That's why people use online banking, so we don't have to drive 10 miles to a branch, stand in a queue for 30 minutes (outside in the rain these days) because you can only go at lunchtime or for the 15 minutes they seem to open on a Saturday (if your lucky), just to check if that payment actually went through.

        Yeah good use of time.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: "for we like sheep ..."

          My Great Grandfather had a standing appointment at his bank, at 10AM on the first Wednesday of the month. That was the day he took the horse & trap into town. While there, he did his banking, got a haircut, settled various outstanding bills, picked up dry goods, the mail, and that kind of thing. Was a major, day long production as he lived about 10 miles from downtown.

          My Grandfather handled his banking the same way (albeit driving a new-fangled automobile instead of the trap), as did my Father (who chose to bicycle). As do I (I'm back to the trap ... buckboard, actually ... at least when I can). There is absolutely no need at all for most people to have access to their banking info while sitting on the Number 9 bus. Shirley setting aside half an hour once per month isn't that much of a hardship?

          Granted, in this age of Covid19 life's a trifle more difficult ... but I still don't do any of my banking online. I see no real positive reason to do so, and a whole lot of potential negatives.

          By the way, you can telephone and ask if that payment went through, should you feel the need to do so. On the very rare occasion that I feel the need, it works for me. If your bank doesn't offer real-time telephone access to a human being, find another bank.

          1. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: "for we like sheep ..."

            I'm as old fashioned as Jake. I don't sleep better having my money in a bank. They no longer pay for privilege and rat me out to The Man if my transactions go over a certain amount. Even less if it's a slow month so they fill up their quota.

            The huge down side of digital money is somebody from the other side of the world can have it off you in fractions of a second. If you do your finances on a mobile, somebody nicking it while it's unlocked means that can have access to ALL of your money and not just the bills in your pocket. Yes, I have a couple of accounts, but they are long term retirement funds and not day to day transaction accounts.

            Even when your account is insured, it can take a long period of time to get access to your money again and a big stack of late payment fees. The utility companies don't give a rat's backside why you can't pay them, only the fact they didn't get their money on time. The city water services where I am charge a 45% penalty on late payments. It's not a percentage, it's a flat fee, but for me that's what it works out to be if I'm 14 hours late paying.

            I also pick up prepaid cards for convenience. I've never had one hacked but I use them up rather quickly. Even if one did get drained, I'd only be out what was left on it, not my entire retirement savings. Since they are very temporary, walking away from a theft would sting, but it doesn't take months of haggling with a credit card company to sort it out.

            1. richdin

              Re: "for we like sheep ..."

              I have a NO ONLINE TRANSACTIONS order on my account - I can RECEIVE money, but cannot TRANSMIT funds online, only over the phone or by conventional means (check, cc). I sleep much easier this way - even if someone hacks my account, the bank can only blame itself.

              BTW - Surely you all don't mean Shirley (or am I missing a Britishism?)

          2. cbars

            Re: "for we like sheep ..."

            "I don't need it, therefore nobody needs it", classic. If you only have a bank account because its a requirement to receive benefits/child support/etc, and you think you're at risk of going overdrawn with every transaction, then having confirmation of your account balance is very much required to stay solvent.

            For myself, I have the infantile requirement of sending my mates beer money in tiny installments with annoying references; online banking is required to save myself the embarrassment of explaining myself and wasting a cashiers time with my whimsy

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Alien

            Re: "for we like sheep ..."

            When we do our rounds of the local farms, in our trap, we often stop to buy some cheese from the goat cheese people. We pick some cheese, they weigh and wrap it and we pay them by faster payments from a phone once we know what the bill is. They can see the money is there (they'd trust us, but it's nice they don't have to), and they don't have the whole awkward 'dying' thing because they've been handling our possibly-germy cash or cheques, let alone having to wait fir the cheque to clear. We still have to leave the cheese a bit in case it is germy, but it's fine. We buy hay for the pony the same way. The cow cheese people deliver: they leave a note with the amount and we pay them ... by faster payments from the phone. We pay the farrier by faster payments from the phone

            Because, you see, we live in the 21st century, unlike you who clearly live in some fantasy version of the late 19th. I mean, I'm happy that you can: it must be nice.

          4. logicalextreme Silver badge

            Re: "for we like sheep ..."

            This is almost certainly the first time I've seen somebody try to win a web tech argument by opening with "My Great Grandfather…".

    2. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: "for we like sheep ..."

      "if bricks and mortar businesses exhibited the current levels of unreliability of "digital" services, I'd expect riots."

      Not riots, but lots more permanently shuttered shops. If the corner shop is closed with a note in the window that there was an emergency, fine, that can be dealt with. If the shop is only open once every 4 visits, you stop going to that shop.

      When I was younger (playing with my pet Triceratops) I'd take my pay check to deposit in the bank and withdrawal cash for my weekly needs. A bit more if there were a bank holiday that week. To go to the bank and find the doors shut durning "banking hours" would be frightening. I'd still have checks if there were money left in the account. With online/no-branch banks and checks nearly unheard of these days along with people carrying very little cash, a hiccup means late bills and trying to figure out if there is any food in the house that can be prepared with what's to hand. You can't go to the next town and visit a different branch. When the online bank is down, it's all down.

      I'm a cynical old bastard and played one at work when I was in aerospace. Part of my job was to be the safety officer and think about plausible ways stuff might blow up. I'm always planning for the down side. I leave early for flights from a busy airport when I have non-refundable tickets. I'd rather arrive at the train station in time for a cuppa before the train is scheduled to arrive. No chance it will be early. Ever. I keep a stocked pantry or non-perishables and a bit of cash on hand just in case. Just in case might mean a power/internet outage in my town or a friend needs a small loan for petrol, or both.

      Online banking is very convenient, but there is a down side to it as well. If you aren't prepared, don't complain when it doesn't work when you need it.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: "for we like sheep ..."

      "we'd have abandoned service providers in droves"

      Unfortunately nowadays we seem to be in an "If you knows of a better hole, go to it." situation.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "for we like sheep ..."

        What I don't get is why people don't just have more than one bank account, with multiple banks. They're very easy to set up. Leave a bit of cash in each.

        I do realise that not everyone is able to leave a bit of cash in multiple bank accounts but having a single bank account which is entirely online seems a bit daft to me.

        As for those saying they only do things the old fashioned way, well, good luck to you. If you've got such empty lives that you can waste time going to a bank every time you want to make a transaction, then good for you; it keeps people in jobs.

  2. Richard Tobin

    No technical information

    There is “no technical information to share at this stage”. That is, we are choosing not to give you any technical information. Presumably because it would be embarrassing.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Pete 2 Silver badge

      Re: No technical information

      > Presumably because it would be embarrassing.

      Embarrassing as in "thick fingered individual deleted the database and we've just discovered the backups haven't worked for months" That sort of embarrassing?

      1. Cederic Silver badge

        Re: No technical information

        I think that would be major financial news already, as they'd have had to report it to the FCA nearly a week ago.

        Disclosure: Used to work there, so not commenting on their specific systems.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: No technical information

          "... as they'd have had to report it to the FCA nearly a week ago."

          Having to do something and actually doing it are two very, very different things in banking.

          Basically 0 penalties from FCA if they don't do it, so why publish blunders too early?

          Because stock price would plummet and that's the only thing CEO is worried about.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Terminator

            Re: No technical information

            I think the penalty for something like that is 'losing your banking license'. So probably you do it. (And I've worked somewhere where there was a big outage and they were scared shitless about losing their lucense and, I think, came close to it.)

        2. stevebp

          Re: No technical information

          Actually, it would be the PRA (Prudential Regulation Authority - cf https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prudential_Regulation_Authority_(United_Kingdom)) - the job of regulating the banks was hived off the FSA some years back because they were useless at it (think 2008!) and the Govt created the PRA and FCA.

          There is a recently published requirement from the PRA to be able to sustain a major outage and run off backup systems for an extended period of time - I think Smile may be getting a visit from the PRA after this - I hope the investigation is made public (it won't be)

    3. vtcodger Silver badge

      Re: No technical information

      Why do you assume that they know what is wrong? Banking is not a profession that typically attracts humanity's finest minds. It's not like bookmaking or counterfitting where penalties are exacted for sloppy work.

      1. TitterYeNot

        Re: No technical information

        It's not like bookmaking or counterfitting where penalties are exacted for sloppy work.

        I'm curious, what exactly are the penalties for fitting counters sloppily?

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: No technical information

          "what exactly are the penalties for fitting counters sloppily?"

          From the horror stories I've heard from friends, fly-by-night remodeling companies can get away with almost anything without penalty. Choose your contractor carefully.

    4. logicalextreme Silver badge

      Re: No technical information

      And the question is — is it embarrassing because what has happened is embarrassing in itself, or because they still don't know what the problem is?

  3. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

    Always with this ridiculous "an IT glitch is affecting a small number of customers" and "The speed of the website is affect for some" sort of bullshit!

    This is just the typical mantra of any organisation that provides IT services. We work with suppliers who provide us with service and actually tell us what's going on if ever there's a problem. Until banks are given real penalties (real financial ones) and can actually pay the customers, they won't take reliability or security seriously. Look at TSB last year.

    I can't remember which bank it was who said there was a "fraud guarantee" - it was this year - they said that they'll refund you any money if you are defrauded. However the small print indicated that this would not always be the case. Of course.

    Banks have been allowed to get away with too much. If I were to go to a bank that told me they'd pay me £100 an hour for every hour that online banking wasn't available unless it was scheduled maintenance, I would jump at the idea. And the bank would absolutely pour money into security and reliability.

    1. ibmalone

      Have you tried restarting your router, rebooting and deleting cookies?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        restarting your router, rebooting and deleting cookies

        "Have you tried restarting your router, rebooting and deleting cookies?"

        No but I'd suggest the small number of customers affected might want to arrange a rota for switching off and restarting the Board of Directors until matters improve.

        If that doesn't work, try deleting their bank accounts. Only a small number of customers will be affected, obviously.

  4. Pete 2 Silver badge

    one egg in one basket

    Most people understand intuitively that only having a single copy of your front door key is a bad idea. It can get lost. It can get broken or left on the wrong side of the door.

    There are many other aspects of life that follow the same principle: car keys, royal heirs .... bank accounts.

    If you rely only one, lone, bank account not only are you totally dependent on the competence of that bank but you only get one card. The smart people will apply for both a debit card and a credit card. If one gets lost, they still have the other. Provided both weren't kept in the same wallet / handbag. But for complete financial security, more than one current account is required.

    1. My-Handle Silver badge

      Re: one egg in one basket

      I have more than one current account, with more than one bank.

      I'd still feel pretty pissed off if one of those banks suddenly became unavailable for days on end and didn't bother to tell me why in any kind of detail. I've left banks for less.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: one egg in one basket

        "I'd still feel pretty pissed off if one of those banks suddenly became unavailable for days on end"

        So go into the brick and mortar storefront and demand[0] answers. What's that? Your bank doesn't have a brick and mortar storefront? More fool you.

        [0] Hint: Go easy on the "demand" bit ... Going in with a smile, a PleaseAndThankYou[tm], and the attitude of "I don't know if you can help me, let's find out!" when you discover an error helps keep folks on your side ... if you come storming in, looking for blood, you'll only piss 'em off. This is true when dealing with customer service in almost all walks of life. It's basic social engineering, innit.

        1. Imhotep

          Re: one egg in one basket

          It's amazing how many people never catch on to the point you make about "demanding" things.

          If your goal is to actually solve a problem, it really is the onlybway to go.

          1. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: one egg in one basket

            You have to step back and get a proper count of your eggs and baskets. Having all your finances route through your mobile is one very fragile basket. If your several eggs turn out to be linked together at one bank, it will turn out you only had one egg. People often only consider how convenient it is to only have to carry one basket, they don't stop to think what happens if the bottom falls out.

            I've had my sole debit card get hacked while I was on a business trip. I was lucky that some coworkers that I'd just met were also at the same conference and were able to loan me money. That was a bit awkward. When I was able to talk to a human at the bank, they were not going to do anything for me. They'd be happy to send me a replacement card in 7-10 "working" days to my home address. I don't think that would have flown with the hotel and I certainly didn't have enough in the gas tank to make it home. The bank wouldn't even let me visit a local branch with my ID and the cancelled card to withdrawal enough cash to get me home. That was the final straw with those criminals. They hardly go 30 days now without being fined by the government for fraud and larceny.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: one egg in one basket

            A lot of people don't want to actually solve the problem. They want "assert their authority" instead, by shouting and ranting. Then they go away and gleefully recount how they "gave them a piece of my mind". They know that reducing a 19-year old teller (or shop assistant, or office junior) to tears has done absolutely nothing to solve the problem, but they got their little power trip, and that's what matters.

            On the flip side, too many companies have no way for you to complain to them about a problem. Not on Facebook? No way to contact them. All you can really do as a customer is take your business elsewhere.

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: one egg in one basket

          "Going in with a smile"

          That's the problem for those affected. They don't have a Smile that works.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: one egg in one basket

      This is sensible, but not always possible. Some people have difficulty getting any kind of bank account, let alone two. After two cases in close succession of credit card fraud a couple of years ago (dealt with okay by my bank, but very inconvenient and somewhat worrying) I tried to get a second credit card, only to discover that despite having no debt, decent salary and theoretically good credit history (regularly paid credit card, phone contract, utility bills for over a decade) the credit reference agency the bank in question used knew nothing about me as they had failed to associate two addresses.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Joke

        Re: one egg in one basket

        Well, the scammers had no trouble getting new cards in your name.

        Figures don't it!

      2. jake Silver badge

        Re: one egg in one basket

        So take your business elsewhere. Shirley you have access to more than two banks?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: one egg in one basket

          Actually, I didn't. The problem is not the choice of banks, it's that you don't get a say over credit reference agencies (in theory you can ask for corrections, in practice the routes for doing that are limited). Anyway, my example is a pretty privileged version of the problem that I can, eventually, fix. Other people have it worse with no way to ever improve their record.

    3. Graham 32

      Re: one egg in one basket

      It's not just the cards. It's phones now too. I have an account where I must install their app to generate one-time login codes. Annoyingly, the app can only be active on one phone at a time. So if the phone dies I have to jump through hoops to deregister the phone before I'm permitted to put it on another. I imagine it's things like taking proof of ID into a branch so nothing rapid and certainly not possible if abroad on holiday.

      With the new 2FA stuff all the banks are doing I've realised my phone is a single point of failure. I need a second phone and a probably second phone number to cover me for a predictable phone failure disaster.

      1. ibmalone

        Re: one egg in one basket

        Absolutely, I'm always amazed by people who happily load everything onto their phone. So, that's your credit card, travel card, means of communication and device for validating access to pretty much everything you own? And your plan if it gets pinched from your table in the bar (incidentally, why do people do that?) is what exactly?

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: one egg in one basket

          Remember back when people spent money on all-in-one printer/copier/FAX/scanners? If one head died, they all died ... Oh, wait, people still buy those things, don't they? Go figure ...

          1. Sandtitz Silver badge
            Thumb Down

            Re: one egg in one basket

            "Remember back when people spent money on all-in-one printer/copier/FAX/scanners? If one head died, they all died ... Oh, wait, people still buy those things, don't they? Go figure ...

            If you have a separate set of a printer, a copier (are they still a thing?), a FAX (same), and a networked scanner - then all the power to you. I'd see this as a backwards step to turn of century.

            1. jake Silver badge
              Pint

              Re: one egg in one basket

              I'm an old UNIX hacker. I like many single purpose tools, each of which does one thing perfectly. Especially if I can maintain and/or repair them for myself, instead of adding to the local landfill when they go awry. Even more especially if I can still use everything else when one of them is waiting on parts.

              You do your thing your way, I'll do my thing my way. Have a homebrew?

              (Yes, I use my scanner, copier and FAX machine regularly ... near daily, in fact.)

              1. MachDiamond Silver badge

                Re: one egg in one basket

                Another upside is that while you may use a fax machine very infrequently these days and the scanner a couple of times per month, wearing out the printer doesn't kill devices that don't get much use. If you don't update your computer every 6 months, buying a new all-in-one may not be an option as the new drivers don't work with your computer unless you upgrade that too. Printers tend to have drivers work for much longer than a scanner or fax.

                1. Sandtitz Silver badge

                  Re: one egg in one basket

                  "Printers tend to have drivers work for much longer than a scanner or fax."

                  MFP's allow you to scan directly to email or a network share so drivers have never been a problem with scanning.

        2. John H Woods

          Re: one egg in one basket

          Not just that - I don't think anyone in my family would be able to phone me on a borrowed or new phone if they lost their phone because I'm pretty sure none of them know my phone number!

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: one egg in one basket

            And people call me a luddite when they hear I have and use a Rolodex. Two, actually, one for friends and family, and one for business and government.

          2. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: one egg in one basket

            I've got a stack of iPod Touch's that all have my calendar and my mobile contact list. If the phone goes rotten and I have to get a new one, chances are good that there's an iPod in the center console of the car with my phone numbers on. I try to store my numbers on the SIM card if I can rather than the phone so exchanging the SIM retains my phone book. I also like having my other files on a micro SD card rather than in the phone itself. It's very easy to hide a micro SD if you need to have a "clean" phone such as when you are visiting the US. Yeah, a full search might be a problem, but it does prevent gratuitous snooping by Customs agents.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: one egg in one basket

      Did exactly this today. "The machine don't accept cards from that bank, no idea why, sorry." With a horrid look on their face expecting a whole problem, but instead I just whipped out the other bank card I have just for emergencies... and for special deal/offers! :P

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: one egg in one basket

        "The machine don't accept cards from that bank, no idea why, sorry."

        Ah, when I was told that, I smirked to myself and whipped out my emergency £50, only to be told they don't accept £50 notes, either!

        1. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: one egg in one basket

          "h, when I was told that, I smirked to myself and whipped out my emergency £50, only to be told they don't accept £50 notes, either!"

          Well, in most places you have the option of visiting a different shop. I've never had an issue spending a larger note at a petrol station or a grocery.

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: one egg in one basket

          "Ah, when I was told that, I smirked to myself and whipped out my emergency £50, only to be told they don't accept £50 notes, either!"

          Here's my name and address. You were offered legal tender and refused to take it.

          1. tellytart

            Re: one egg in one basket

            Ah, but notes are promissory, not legal tender. Legal tender is actually a very tightly defined term for settlement of debts.

            Only coinage is required to be accepted for payment, and only in "reasonable" amounts - so you couldn't settle a £100 debt with 1p coins.

  5. I_am_Chris
    FAIL

    Vindicated

    I decided to move our joint account from smile to Starling a few months ago. To me, Smile just felt stagnant and unloved. Their revamp a few years ago was awful and made the website even more clunky than before.

    The account is still open with a notional balance, but won't be for much longer.

    These SNAFUs are getting too common. I was with RBS when they had theirs, then TSB and now Smile. Is it me?

    1. MooseMonkey

      Re: Vindicated

      I agree, I abandoned Smile just as the "new" website and app was rolled out. I think that was 5 years ago, I too have ended up with Starling, as one of three current accounts of course :-)

    2. Sinical

      Re: Vindicated

      I am currently a Smile account holder . I am also currently reading about the options for opening an account with Starling. These facts are not unrelated.

    3. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Vindicated

      Don't close it, you might need it if Starling goes TITSUP.

      1. Sinical

        Re: Vindicated

        Dont worry, it's not my only account. I've been in the technology game long enough to know never leave a single point of failure. After 20 years I assumed Smile might have realised this too.

    4. whileI'mhere

      Re: Vindicated

      "I was with RBS when they had theirs, then TSB and now Smile. Is it me?"

      Yes. Please tell us where you go next so we can all avoid it.

      1. I_am_Chris

        Re: Vindicated

        I currently have four (not including smile) separate bank accounts so am planning on taking down half the banking sector in one go! ;)

    5. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Vindicated

      "Is it me?"

      No, it's them. The whole lot of them.

  6. Bassey

    In their defense, I've been with smile since they started (about 2 decades?) and this is the first issue I've ever had. However, it's a pretty huge one. We're in the middle of moving house and being unable to make payments to surveyors, advocates etc is a nightmare.

    I worked in banking for 13 years and frequently tried to convince the powers that be that a Bank is simply an IT company whose services involve moving money. IT should be funded as the main priority and technically knowledgeable people should be on the Board. This was ignored and the bank went under about 5 years ago - although not IT related. Damn it.

    But, unfortunately, Banks are run by bankers and accountants. It is incredibly rare to see an actual IT person at board level (the IT "Director" usually has no background in IT) and therefore IT is regarded as a burdensome cost; until something like this happens.

    1. Cederic Silver badge

      Banks don't move money. Banks are IT and data services company whose job is transferring and storing valuable data.

      The data happens to often represent money.

      To be fair, most of the actual bankers I know do realise this and their finance departments absolutely do. Just don't ask me about the Treasury teams.

      Disclosure: Used to work at the bank mentioned in the article, so not commenting on their specific systems.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Smile, a trading division of the Co-Operative Bank

    given the rather long and well-publicized history of failings with co-op brands, I wouldn't be surprised if smile were to disappear one day, hour, second. To the shock, horror of their customers, who can't be blamed, really, cause they were only born yesterday and "I liked their name and logo so I put all my savings there and now I don't know what to do, help!"

    Banks are NOT your friend, whether they're called "Your bank", "Smile" or "Royal Trust". If something goes wrong, they WILL put you first - first to lose your money and cover their losses.

    1. ibmalone

      Re: Smile, a trading division of the Co-Operative Bank

      In the UK the financial services compensation scheme covers you up to £85,000 per institution (banking license), small savers (if you think £85,000 is small) and current account holders would be inconvenienced, but would not lose their money to cover losses.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Smile, a trading division of the Co-Operative Bank

        I'm aware of the 85K threshold, but are people, in general, aware of that too?

        On another note, I wonder, how many accounts would be covered in case of major banking slump. I don't remember how it went in 2008, but I do remember the distress of somebody I knew then, who'd put all her eggs in the Northern Rock (rock-solid, presumably). She was a genuinely decent person, but got a very sharp and painful lesson in banking integrity v. real world shitstorm.

        1. Jay 2

          Re: Smile, a trading division of the Co-Operative Bank

          At the time of the 2008 slump I was saving up for a deposit and had a few savings accounts including both Icesave and Kaupthing (sp?). You may recall them both as being Icelandic banks that went belly up. I got all the money back. But it shows that in this day and age banks can disappear and if possible you should try to have eggs in multiple baskets.

          1. James 47

            Re: Smile, a trading division of the Co-Operative Bank

            Out of interest, how long did it take to get the money back?

            1. SoSoSoap

              Re: Smile, a trading division of the Co-Operative Bank

              About a week or so IIRC. I have a accounts at present. In the UK banks were (until Covid-19) paying people to transfer or open accounts - up to $200. I expect they will restart the offers again in the future. I also keep them for their higher interest regular saver accounts. Remember in the UK banki9is mostly free.

      2. Steve K

        Re: Smile, a trading division of the Co-Operative Bank

        Careful though as the FSCS won’t cover electronic money accounts such as Revolut (as they aren’t a bank)

  8. circusmole

    I did some IT consultancy...

    ... at several banks a few years ago and almost every one of the senior managers at these banks considered IT to be an "overhead" rather like its cleaning services, catering, building maintenance, etc... The emphasis was always on containing day-to-day costs. But if anything went wrong...

    1. Teiwaz

      Re: I did some IT consultancy...

      almost every one of the senior managers at these banks considered IT to be an "overhead" rather like its cleaning services

      Honestly, I've gotten the impression that most management at most companies thought the same way.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I absolutely insist and demand...

    That all female stock photos in the Reg are replaced by the Eee girl across the site.

    Please also update the wayback machine.

    Do this now, or I will cancel my subscription!

    1. WolfFan Silver badge

      Re: I absolutely insist and demand...

      El Reg, bring back the illustrious Ms. Bee so that she can deal properly with this sort of person. We want the Bee back!

    2. Pascal Monett Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: I absolutely insist and demand...

      No ! Don't do that !

      The financial loss to El Reg will be devastating !

    3. jake Silver badge

      Re: I absolutely insist and demand...

      A check/cheque for the full amount (plus all accrued interest) will be in your voicemail by close of business today. Don't let the door hit you in the ass/arse on the way out.

  10. Eccella
    FAIL

    Not Smiling

    Does the FCA have a definition of an Online Bank? If it's not available then they are no longer Online and ergo not providing Banking services. The blandness of response is not only staggering but also insulting. Get honest with your customers, it would improve trust. Feel that I have to vote with my feet, as soon as I can get online again!

    1. ibmalone

      Re: Not Smiling

      I don't know, but wouldn't think so. You can contact them by phone, so banking is still possible. I'd say, "still contact them by phone", but several years ago they stopped providing phone banking for most situations (sounds like you're a customer, so I guess you probably know that), which makes the resumption of phone service for these outages a bit of a novelty.

    2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: Not Smiling

      If you don't vote with your feet, then you'll never signal the Board that their casual attitude towards IT is not acceptable.

      The ONLY way we customers will be heard is if we, as a group, walk when such unacceptable behavior is displayed.

      Unless the Board sees a significant drop in accounts at every IT failure, IT will continue to just be what the CEO yells at when he "lost" a file again (by moving it to the wrong folder).

      One would think that an online bank would have a bit more awareness of what being online entails, but it would seem not.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I would normally associate that error message with a coding error

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Smile

    though your heart is aching

    Smile, even though it's breaking

    When there are clouds in the sky

    You'll get by...

    1. Warm Braw Silver badge

      Re: Smile

      When there are clouds...

      Ah. Perhaps that's the problem.

  13. mr-slappy
    FAIL

    Ethical or not the service is dreadful

    I joined Smile a couple of decades ago because of their ethical stance and until recent years their service has been very good.

    Then Paul Flowers got caught with his nose in the drugs trough and it's all gone to crap.

    These service outages are getting more and more common and I am now unable to check if I've been paid or have enough money to pay my mortgage.

    I would move my account elsewhere but my ethical choices seem pretty limited.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ethical or not the service is dreadful

      I must say that the issue of "ethical" makes a life, on average, just impossible. I mean, it's not that "the choice is limited", there is no choice. Even if, in good faith, you try to live your life "ethically", you find out, sooner or later, that that cute green logo and a lengthy, eye-watering promise on a can of beans in your green, ethical, triple-priced "local" store is just that, a green logo and an eye-watering promise, while in reality... Unless you want to grow your own potatoes, etc. But - you need to buy a stake in this land first. Which requires funds, a lot of funds, etc.

    2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: Ethical or not the service is dreadful

      Ethics is very nice, but when your choice is between ethics and not losing your roof, I think ethics takes a back seat.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Ethical or not the service is dreadful

        ethics, or any form of altruism is, broadly speaking, applicable to those, who can afford it. Any risk of loss to your own purse and ethics not only takes a back seat, it gets kicked out and left behind in the middle of a motorway. Yes, there are exceptions, but only exceptions.

    3. jake Silver badge

      Re: Ethical or not the service is dreadful

      Whose "ethics", Kemosabe?

    4. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Ethical or not the service is dreadful

      Any institution that tries to greenwash or affiliate themselves with one organization or another is immediately off the board for consideration. When I'm looking at financial services, I want them to be fanatical experts in the field of finance and banking, not social justice warriors. Look at somebody like Paypal where they seem to "ban" something every couple of days. Spend your money in the wrong place and they suspend YOUR account along with the merchant. It all depends on what the PR department is raving about this week.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ethical or not the service is dreadful

      "because of their ethical stance "

      This is an oxymoron. Bank exists solely for stealing as much money (from their customers) they can and that's as unethical as it can get: Professional thieves.

      It being legal doesn't change what it is, banks are literally buying laws for that.

  14. deaglecat

    God I hope they haven't got a black hole in their accounts... like Wirecard. Or maybe a solvency issue.

    The mind boggles. Still FSCS protected - I fear we may need that in the times ahead.

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      "Still FSCS protected"

      Is your landlord going to sit still for 60 days while you sort your accounts out? Utilities? School fees?

  15. mcr

    Wobbly? The service has been completely down - both the traditional web site access and via their app - for at least the last 48 hours. Whatever has happened must be pretty significant, but their complete lack of communication beyond leave us speculating. So far all they've said can be summed up as "we know, we're working on it". Utter shambles.

  16. Dan 55 Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Whatever's wrong, it's utterly hosed

    10pm, Friday 10 July:

    We are continuing to work urgently on fixing customer access to smile online banking and the smile mobile app. As part of this we are performing emergency maintenance tonight across both smile and Co-operative Bank systems and this will take place after 10pm when customers least use these services. This is necessary to allow for further investigations with the aim of fully restoring the service for our customers.

    [...]

    Following the maintenance, the next update will be available here at 8am on Saturday 11 July.

    They need to bring both Smile and Co-op down overnight, not to fix it, but to allow the issue to be further investigated, and that's after a week of most services being unavailable anyway.

    Fly you fools!

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Weren't their service outsourced to IBM then Capita?

    As title

  18. ricardian

    Latest updates from https://www.co-operativebank.co.uk/news/2020/smile-service-information.

    8am, Saturday 11 July:

    Following emergency maintenance on both our smile and Co-operative Bank systems, we have been able to restore access to smile online banking and the smile mobile app for our customers. We are extremely sorry for the inconvenience this issue has caused as we know this is not the standard of service expected from us. Thank you for bearing with us.

    We will work to support any of our customers who have experienced any detriment whilst smile online banking and the smile app were unavailable and we encourage any impacted customers to contact us to discuss their circumstances.

  19. MeggsChasm
    IT Angle

    Conflation

    Oh dear! As could be expected, such a verbose chain of comments is bound to be liable to a few inconsistencies.

    Here, we seem to have conflated personal ID with computer service robustness. Having more than one account, or card access to one or more accounts is as strong as any 2F authentication can be. Presentation of “something you have” Is only of any use when the link between the object and the person is tested at transaction time. QoS in banking systems would be difficult enough if there were to be only one set of rails; the passage of information between account holder and end user is, unfortunately, a series of chain links that have little or no responsibility for chain end to end reconciliation. Maybe the provision of such reliability would be expensive; in which case authentic supply and demand would indicate that some people would be prepared to pay a surcharge for the provision of such an assurance. That this extra cost should be the ethical responsibility of the financial institution may be a question for FCA.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ....at what point does it cease to be a digital bank?

    Judging by the shear stupidity of treating IT as a "cost centre" it's clear that the directors of banks have never considered them to be "online banks"

  21. grumpy_whale_1

    When people ask why we need digital banking, the answer is simple, because they shut the branches. Around here there are no bricks and mortal without a half hour car drive or an hour on a bus! so how is that possible the option is an online one. And as the world moves towards electronic over physical money for safety and convenience we will all find the need for a reliable online bank..and so far Smile is not it. I have been with them for years and they have indeed been getting worse. People should vote with their electronic feet and move, i was surprised to see that smile only had 100000 customers a rather scary low number for the investment in tech that is needed to maintain and move on with tech. And not telling us the issue well thats just wrong, surely there is an obligation to tell us whats wrong, did a cleaner unplug their one and only server, did a tech delete the code... those are accidents this sounds like a coverup. all in all its time to put up or shut up... literally if you cant tell us whats up and whats being done shut down... close the doors shut off the lights and give in no service is better than this debarcle.

  22. Trollslayer

    Cheap means not cheerful

    There are some occasions when you shouldn't make cost the only factor.

    Would you fit £10 tyres on your car?

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