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Bank customers suffer five IT glitches a week

Oscar Williams-Grut
·Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
Berlin, Germany - January 11:  In this photo illustration the apps of different online banking providers are displayed on a smartphone on January 11, 2019 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo Illustration by Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images)
The apps of different online banking providers displayed on a smartphone. Photo: Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images

Millions of online banking customers are being shut out of their accounts and left unable to make payments each week, with new research suggesting lenders are hit by five IT glitches per week.

Consumer group Which? said on Wednesday that big banks suffered 265 tech outages between October 2018 and September 2019. The figure, based on data from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), translates to an average of five glitches per week.

RBS (RBS.L) and Santander (SAN.MC) were the worst performers, with 18 tech outages each during the period. Barclays (BARC.L), Tesco Bank (TSCO.L), and First Direct also performed poorly.

“These findings show the industry is still failing to get to grips with alarmingly frequent banking glitches, which can cause real stress and frustration for millions of people left locked out of their account and struggling to make payments,” Gareth Shaw, head of money at Which?, said in a statement.

Not all banks are struggling with tech. Which? highlighted that challenger bank Starling and M&S Bank (MKS.L) survived a whole year without any glitches.

READ MORE: Online banking failures 'unacceptable', say MPs

Which?’s findings follow a report from MPs in October that said the level of IT failures at big banks remains “unacceptable.” It called for the regulator to “take action to improve the operational resilience of financial services sector firms.”

Stephen Jones, chief executive of lobbying group UK Finance, said in a statement: "The industry conducts sector-wide exercises with regulators to ensure it is prepared to respond effectively to any major disruptions or events as part of its continued commitment to maintaining the resilience of the financial system.

“UK Finance continues to engage with government over how coordination between regulatory authorities could be improved, seeking to avoid overlapped or rushed mandatory change programmes that impact firms’ ability to protect their customers.”

Last week a damning independent report was published into TSB’s 2018 IT meltdown, which left thousands of customers unable to access their bank accounts online or process payments. The report from law firm Slaughter & May said many of the issues “could have been identified” ahead of time and executives lacked “common sense” when approaching the tech project.

While Which?’s findings show IT problems remain high at banks, they do suggest some improvement. A similar study by the consumer group earlier this year found banks suffered tech outages at a rate of one per day in the final nine months of 2018.

TSB lacked 'common sense' in 2018 IT meltdown, report says