Sunday, June 24, 2012

RBS, NatWest, Ulster Bank - Banking makes you go blind

Once upon a time, banks were at the centre of communities. The local bank manager was a well-known and respected figure, and it was possible to go into your branch and be greeted by name. Both personal and business accounts were administered by kindly, bespectacled clerks who were sympathetic to peoples' circumstances. All was well.

But that was long ago and far away. For many years, banks have turned their interests to complex financial systems and call centres with automated responses and interminable waiting times. Despite their adverts, with smiling bank staff singing rubbish versions of pop hits from 20 years ago, and grinning actors talking about "personal service", banks have lost their souls.

We now have the spectre of NatWest, RBS and Ulster Bank wringing their hands and offering media apologies for a catastrophic breakdown of their systems. Millions of people have no idea what is happening to their accounts. There still has been no clear explanation of what went wrong. I'm surprised that it took several days until RBS chief executive Stephen Hester issued an apology to customers. He should have spoken out immediately the problem was observed. That's what CEOs should do. A statement on the RBS website says "We can assure our customers that this problem is strictly of a technical nature..". I have no idea what that means, or how is is supposed to reassure anyone. Do they mean no humans were involved? Was it those pesky computers that did it?

The thing is, banks lost sight of the interests of their personal and small business customers years ago. If this glitch had affected systems that service massive international money movements, it would have been fixed very quickly. The whole shambles is evidence that banking makes you go blind.


Simon Ellinas said...

Quite agree! Good blog!

Suzan St Maur said...

Excellent points there - and I agree that banking has made the banks go blind, if only because the retail side has been ticking along quietly for a long time and I suspect the banks have become complacent about it.

Assuming the worst of their problems so far in retail banking has been outwitting yobs who fiddle ATMs and debit cards, this massive meltdown really must have caught Nat West with its trousers down.

Moral of the story: watch out for technology - it bites.

Mid Life Coaching For Women said...

Better leaving your money under the mattress like out grandparents used to do!

Paul Johnstone said...

Depending on the bank it can make you go more than blind lol

Nice piece I enjoy reading them

Nik Gurney said...

The staff at the bottom of the ladder (those in the branches and the call centres) genuinely do their best to help people, and are told nothing from the dizzying executive heights of the golf course.

The reason RBS Group banks haven't told anyone what's going on is because they don't know.

Alan Stevens said...

Nik, Thanks for your comment, and I appreciate that many of the staff at the sharp end lack support. Experience of our local NatWest during this business has been mixed. One member of staff simply told us to "go home and phone the helpline", while another the following day took responsibility for the problem and fixed it for us.

I hope RBS find the cause of the problem soon.

Seo 4 All said...

Excellent topic of conversation, which brings into question security and the notion that could the organization have been hacked?

Could it have been a cost saving decision or an irate employee who could have caused this failure?

This bank after all has some public money in it, but does it speak for all?

Andrew Wilcox said...

Odd that your advertising immediately below the comments serves bank ads. Critical but supportive?

No redundancy.

Alan Stevens said...

Andrew, a vary good comment. The ads are automatic, presumably generated from the content of the post. However,I take your point, so I've turned them off. Thanks for the feedback.