Being the bottom of the RBS financial food chain isn’t good enough for customers of the Ulster Bank. Executives of the Bank have announced today that the IT situation will finally be sorted out by 16th July. This is the fourth time they have given us a time by which everything should be sorted, so for those who have been unable to access normal banking services since 21st June this is not good enough.
With the recent move to do away with Giro cheques benefits are now all paid into bank accounts, so we are now on the second cycle of benefits that have not been paid into accounts of those who get paid fortnightly.
Many Government departments pay their employees from Ulster Bank Accounts, including as we learnt in Prime Minister’s Questions today the Northern Ireland Office. But also so are many Civil Service and Teachers Pensions and probably many others. We’re heard of some employers getting money out of their savings or personal bank accounts to pay their staff either affected by not accessing their accounts, or because the company account is with the Ulster. But of course not all companies can do this.
What is worse in Northern Ireland is that some workers will have the July fortnight off and may have been planning to go on holiday this weekend. But may have been unable to make final payment or to purchase currency because of cash flow issues.
There are also reports of those with Ulster Bank accounts that no longer live in Northern Ireland (I for 18 years was one of those) facing difficulties because the Nat West and RBS computers have been sorted and people expecting payments aren’t aware that the Ulster Bank is a broken computer system. It was always bad enough for me then the 12th and 13th Bank Holidays were deferred to Monday 14th and Tuesday 15th when my direct debits on my 15th of the month payday were due. I once had 10 Direct Debits bounced at £30 a time because no Ulster Bank staff could process my pay being paid in until the 16th. Earlier we heard that the Ulster Bank were taking charges from accounts because there appeared to be insufficient funds in their account.
Why will it take 4 weeks to sort out an IT system? Why should Ulster Bank customers ever again trust doing online banking either from their laptops or phones? It would appear that if there is an issue they will be dealt with last and a long time after all the other RBS Banks are dealt with.
Despite having a Grandfather who as a Bank Manager started a savings account for me on the day I was born and therefore being a live long Ulster Bank customer I am seriously considering if I am best served in keeping my account with the Bank. Stephen Nolan this morning was outside the Belfast Headquarters of the Ulster Bank, but our MPs of course today had to met the real power behind the throne in London. As Mark Durkan said earlier Ulster Bank customers were being treated as third class citizens. If this drags on to the 16th we may well consider ourselves 4th class.
While earlier today in Northern Ireland questions we were told it was an IT issue, while we know that the staff in branches are doing all they can. There has been a major breakdown of security and back up of that secure data somewhere down the line. This situation should have been dealt with in a couple of days by using back up servers if necessary and resetting to the last known good set of data.
This has dragged on too long and telling people there are still almost another 2 weeks of difficulties is not reassuring anyone. If this had been a British big four bank the Government would have stepped in to take emergency action, but because it is a Northern Irish subset of a bigger bank we are allowed to flounder, despite all parties seeking action from Westminster.
Action is needed and it is needed now.