IT failure bank chief aims to win back trust

RBS Group chief executive Stephen Hester has said he is determined to “personally lead the process” of regaining the trust of customers hit by NatWest’s information technology meltdown.

In a letter to Treasury Select Committee chairman Andrew Tyrie, Mr Hester gave further details of how the incident happened and promised a “full and detailed investigation”.

He said the banking group’s initial findings suggested the problems were created when maintenance on its systems, which are managed and operated by its team in Edinburgh, created an error on Tuesday last week which stopped people’s accounts updating properly.

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He said the knock-on effects were “substantial” and the problem was made worse because the team could not access a record of the transactions that had been processed up to the point of failure.

A “substantial backlog” was created because the group, which processes 20 million transactions a day, had to try to pinpoint the moment at which processing had stopped, which created more delays.

Mr Hester, who has announced that he will forgo his bonus this year because of the problems which have also hit Royal Bank of Scotland and Ulster Bank, said it was not clear why the transaction record was not available following the failure.

He said in the letter: “There is much to do on many fronts and we clearly have yet to achieve a satisfactory level of systems resilience as part of that, albeit this was a unique incident.

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“I therefore view this incident with the utmost seriousness, hitting customers as it did. I am determined to personally lead the process of regaining the trust of our customers.

“I will ensure a full and detailed investigation into the causes of the problem, overseen by independent experts.”