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back to article Incompatible IT systems blamed for bank sale collapse

Royal Bank of Scotland's $1.7bn sale of 318 branches to Santander has gone titsup. The Spanish bank pulled out, largely "because of problems over integrating the two banks' IT systems", The BBC reports. The Telegraph has a teeny bit more detail, reporting a "series of IT problems that have resulted from a lack of compatibility …

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Anonymous Coward

Don't assume it's RBS's fault

I've worked on an integration project with Santander. Between the staff in Milton Keynes and Spain, their own internal wrangling caused untold project delays.

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Meh

A readily available excuse

To get out quick, Santander don't have the cash anymore, have you seen what's happening in Spain, change accounts quick because no matter what people say, the Spanish are in for a crash.

Remember all those promises of free banking for life if you changed to Santander?

They changed the rules.

Incompatible software, now that is lame.

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Re: Another English pirate

Easy tiger were all skint at moment and regardless of the pros & cons of the euro there are few economists who suggest it would a good option to join at this moment.

As for BAE well the world situation means not every government can afford to upgrade their armaments and if a "firesale" did occur I can say I personally hope the technology remains within Europe rather than going to potentially less than friendly suitors?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Another English pirate

@AC of limited vision: Just convert BAE into a "Too Big To Fail"-Bank, precisely what Jack Welsh did with GE, and the money spigot will never turn off!

The EU will not collapse, however it will evolve into a full-blown dictatorship - that is the price one must always pay for keeping an empire together.

Whatever collapses and popular upsets there may be on the way to full implementation of politicians and bankiers visions will just be used to "sell" the neccesary legislation. It is already prepared and filed, awaiting opportunity. In this the British are leading the way, probably 10 years ahead of Europe (both in "sinking" and "police state"). So, it is true that not much is gained for the brits by leaving. Others will gain more.

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FAIL

Re: Don't assume it's RBS's fault

I have to second you on that. I was around when Abbey was bought by Santander. Granted, Santander themselves were a lot easier to work with. Tell them what you needed done, and they would either grant authority to do so, or they'd let you know soon after. Abbey and their outsourcers on the other hand... oy vey.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: A readily available excuse

Santander UK is ring-fenced. They do not share any financial resources with their Spanish parent. Your money would be safe there.

And the free banking for life fiasco forced a U-turn, they continue to offer 'free banking for life' for those who got those accounts.

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Coat

IT's the new "poison pill" defence.

So you want to buy us out? Let me show you our multi-headed, multi-directional hardware/software pride and joy - we've been growing it for years. What? You don't want "that thing" anywhere near your sensitive areas? Well, we're off then...

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With Abbey, Bradford and Bingley and Alliance & Leicester, they pulled the data out of their respective systems, converted it to Santander format and imported it into their Spanish data centre. Some people had teething problems with their accounts, mine went through without any problems.

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Anonymous Coward

With a data migration, the bulk of the work is all upfront mapping the information between the two systems. It's relatively easy to output it all in a shareable format. The only issues that could arise are if the systems are so different that they don't have enough common fields to make it work. Although two banks shouldn't be significantly different in the data they hold unless one of them had made some very odd choices in the past.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: AC

"unless one of them had made some very odd choices in the past."

Possibly. I'd recon so!

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Anonymous Coward

Except in favour of RBS

RBS never seemed to have deal clincher differences with ABN/AMRO, Citizens Bank, Ulster Bank, World Pay .... or even Direct Line when they bought them/Churchill.

Anon as I'm former RBS, though for once I'll be seen as pro them (unlike on some previous AC occasions)

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Facepalm

So, despite all the letters and stuff...

...telling me that I now bank with Santander, whether I like it or not, I don't after all?

They could a;ways re-establish Williams & Glyns. A much better experience than banking with RBS itself.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So, despite all the letters and stuff... @Thad

That's exactly what the ringfenced business is to do, take the old W&G name before it was sold...

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RBS replaced NatWest teller system in 2003

They must have lost a step.

Getting it right: the RBoS/NatWest takeover

http://www.resourcesbt.com/resources/global/issue5/transitions/story_2.htm

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Anonymous Coward

Re: RBS replaced NatWest teller system in 2003

AFAIK RBS use an antiquated system. RBS being older than Natwest mean it was especially likely that it would be a downgrade to the taking over banks systems.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: RBS replaced NatWest teller system in 2003

I was around for the BOLP-IMAS Conversion and many subsequent RBS integration and migration programmes.

BIC was the last one that was really done right...

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Paris Hilton

Bank of Ulster??

That'll be The Ulster Bank then? SBR and WestNat must be laughing...

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JDX
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Must sell by 2014?

Or what?

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Re: Must sell by 2014?

"RBS will commence a new process of disposal . . ."

Perhaps eBay, or a new episode of Storage Wars. We'll see.

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Flame

Re: Perhaps eBay, or a new episode of Storage Wars

So the next time they write to me will be to tell me my money is now in the cloud?

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Anonymous Coward

Huzzah

This way I get longer to manage a transition to a different bank instead of getting shunted onto the worst of them.

(though in fairness, Santander have done well to pull their reputation up from really crap to just-a-bit-crapper-than-RBS.

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Happy

Re: Huzzah

I was getting ready to swap RBS branches as there was no way I was moving my personal and business accounts to Santander .....

This is fantastic news ... for now.

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Re: Huzzah

I was off like a long dog as soon as I heard Santander were taking RBS over. If I had to suffer the inconvenience of changed account numbers and sort codes (I was informed that I wouldn't be keeping the RBS ones I'd had since 1980) I'd rather it was on my terms. I'd had dealings with Santander before when they took over Abey [National] and had no wish to repeat that dismal experience.

Moved in a painless transfer to Co-op - a bit boring, with not as much add-on functionality as RBS, at least initially (e.g. a decent phone App) - but, so far, reliable and owned by its customers. The latter is, to me, a big plus.

I was saddened to leave RBS (I joined when it was Williams and Glyn) as I had always found the high street banking side of things reliable, and the telephone banking staff invariably helpful, but the sell off of the branches was the last straw.

Good luck to remaining customers and staff.

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Re: Huzzah

Santander has, or at least had, a hilariously way of storing addresses. When my Abbey mortgage was absorbed into Santander I stopped receiving statements or any other mortgage related post. I inquired why this had happened and after numerous phone calls that ended with either being disconnected or being transferred between the same clueless departments, I found out that the address for correspondence had been set to Santander's offices in Milton Keynes. This is the default address when post is returned, and the reason it was being returned was because it had been addressed to "17 Frognal Road" rather than "17 Frognal". This was because Santander's data entry system refused to accept a street address that didn't have one of a limited range of suffixes. It appears that during the data migration, they had simply defaulted single name streets to a suffix of "Road".

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WTF?

Re: Huzzah

That seems a bit poor of the post office, who often have these tales of reuniting letters to recipients even with minimal address information.

They couldn't, with a seeming valid postcode deliver to an address that was in other respects the same but had the word Road after it?

Cue deliverer's reconstruction: "Hmm, I have a letter to be delivered and the postcode has led me to street called Frognal, but the address says 'Frognal Road'. Can't be the same place, better return it to the head office at the post office's expense and greater effort to myself."

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Anonymous Coward

The only thing incompatible is debt to gdp

Or exponents and printing.

The banks can not balance cause they are bankrupt, everything else is hide the sausage.

This all ends when we put the fucking banksters and the regulators in prison.

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Pirate

> This all ends when we put the fucking banksters and the regulators in prison.

Sounds like the fairy godmother has been experimenting with the happy pills again.

This farce will actually end when the Euro is recognised as being a failed experiment, and countries return to being in control of their own monetary policies and exchange rates. Unfortunately with the EU now having received the Nobel peace prize in relation to services embracing democracy (hah, hah, hah!), it is far less likely to happen - and we've got years ahead of us whilst this banking crisis stumbles from one disaster to another.

Vote for UKIP at the next election. Nigel Farrage for prime minister!

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(Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

Don't you go hijacking this topic.

Mr Scummer,

The European Union was not responsible for the mess that RBS got itself into, a mess that UK regulators oversaw.

Taxpayers' money gives it an advantage, probably unfair, over competitors.

Downsizing the bank makes the market more competitive and better for consumers generally. The European Commission is on the side of us, the general public here.

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Holmes

Re: Don't you go hijacking this topic.

In a sense, in a sense. We have to keep on going because changing demands quantum tunnelling of the painful sort.

In reality, we are in the Economic Matrix, where Krugman types pretend that things are perfectly all right and the uncomfortable feeling of the unseen feeding tubes starting to run on empty is just a by-effect of the Good Hand of Wise Economic Planning.

Follow the <del>White Rabbit</del>Ludwig von Mises.

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Trollface

Fairy tales of the extreme right

It is a fairy tale that you go there.

I recommend that you start on reading the history of Europe for the past 80 years or so. By those accounts there EU is not going anywhere and the euro certainly is not going anywhere.

Nigel Farage is not so important. The second he is off the stage everybody is going to forget him and his useless message.

What did happen to Royal Bank of Scotland is there own fault of greed and incompetent. There people how did run the bank should in reality never have been running the bank in the first place. In fact. This people should not run anything of any importance at all. Ever!

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Trollface

@FredScummer

It's not the EU that's the problem - it's the 1707 Act of Union we need to do away with. If those Scots hadn't been sponging off us in 2008 then we wouldn't have had to bail out RBS (and HBOS)... :-P

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @FredScummer

What, like we didn't have to bail out Ireland? Or Iceland?

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Anonymous Coward

The Euro as a monetary union was not a failure. The fact that several governments cheated and hid their debts (like Greece did) to join the Euro is. The EU auditors have never been able to balance the books for Greece in the Euro's 12 year existence. That should've had alarm bells ringing for years. But no-one listened.

But this is going off-topic.

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@2012-10-15T12:15

We didn't bail out Iceland. We (partially?) bailed out British depositors in Icelandic banks, and then demanded the Icelandic government pay us back (which I believe they are doing).

And we only contributed to the Irish bail out.

It was a tongue-in-cheek trolling. But if Scotland had been independent, then I'm sure the Scots would've carried a greater share of the costs than they've actually had to pay. (No doubt while muttering something about "oil revenues".)

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RE: This all ends when we put the fucking banksters and the regulators in prison.

And you can start over here on the west side of the pond.

As someone else points out, breaking up big banks is actually a good idea, for proof of that, just look at 'merikkka's to big to fail banks, and how much of the banking system they can fuck with.

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Anonymous Coward

Who's running your bank?

"RBS must realise it's just an IT biz with a banking licence."

ANYONE who wants to run a bank MUST realise they are running an IT business. There are a few new entrants in the last few years, and all the ones I've worked with haven't yet grasped the concept. There are some good Banking IT people in the Bank parts, and some reasonable techies in the parent parts, but the management philosophy in the parents groups is still not in the right lace to understand that the bank IS its IT.

You can still sell YOUR tins of beans without IT, you cannot give customers back THEIR cash! The public gets very upset when they can't get THEIR cash!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Who's running your bank?

Cash stops being YOURS the moment you LOAN it to your bank by having it on deposit with them.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Who's running your bank?

What "cash"? Last time I checked, all I have in my accounts are numbers - not even on paper, they did away with that years ago.

Fun Story: I lost a bit of money on my house, I also have a pension account. The bank send me one of those "pay or we harvest your childrens organs"-letters. I write back: "Fine. Kill the pension account, that will cover it with a generous margin, even after the tax rape". Bank calls me back: "Oh-dear, what would you like to pay per month Sir?".

Now I *certainly* will kill the pension accont - because it is obvious that the money is not there! The bank probably have set up a buffer-account for early repaymenents e.t.c. while the bulk of the investment is in a "Growth Enhanced Mediteranian Premium-rate Bond Trust"*) or something similar, market price maybe 20% of what is claimed on the statement. Cashing the pension take a chunk of their reserves, and paying the debt kills a revenue stream and the fucks probably securitised the overdraft already, so they have to buy back the bonds. A Hurt-Hurt situation - for them.

*) "700:1 Leveraged Greek Junk-bonds - which nobody Trusts to ever mature or pay interest".

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Who's running your bank?

My head hurts

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Unhappy

"Banks are an IT biz with a banking license"

Back in the day there used to be a company that essentially supplied a bank-in-a-box application for the IBM i-series.

Get banking license

Buy i-series

Install software

Add cash and branches.

For a number of lesser known banks that was *all* they needed.

Everything else was (effectively) *marketing*.

Any one who is familiar with the magazine "Money Facts" will know just how *alike* UK banks are when it comes to loans, accounts etc. I'd suggest *most* of the "difference" between them really is marketing and the particular ways they choose to screw their profit out of their target group.

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FAIL

Who Paying The Bill

The task of splitting off branches and accounts from RBS to Satander must have cost a fair few quid, any penalties heading Santanders way or will it be good old tax payer who picks up the bill. Nationalise the banks now and return good customers services. hell when we are at it, let natiionlise the energy industry and stop the consumer from being milked and ripped off by foreign companies owning them.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Who Paying The Bill

Nationalising doesnt bring good customer service, just gives Unions and "Jobs for life" chums more bargaining power without having to produce anything for it as the taxpayer foots the (Leyland, British Aerospace, Rolls Royce Aero, Railways, Undergorund etc etc) bill for wages

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Mikko Soirola, from IT integration specialist Liaison Technologies

In complex cases like this, integrating legacy systems can be a brutal task for even the most adept IT organisation, so walking away from the RBS deal might indeed be the right decision for Santander. However, deeper due diligence earlier on can quickly indicate the scale and complexity of the proposed integration between any organisation and assist the strategic decision-making process sooner, saving a lot of time and money.

That said, the growing ability to use cloud computing as a broker between highly disparate IT infrastructures is now making it possible to integrate IT where previously it was deemed impossible. This might be an example where traditional approaches to integration could have benefitted from fresh thinking.

Successful integration is also in the eye of the beholder – and RBS could have, and should have, ensured that its IT assets were implemented in ways that were more open to integration and change, which would have been to the benefit of both the seller and its shareholders. For any other potential suitor, the now very public issue on integration has had the added effect of substantially marking down the multi-billion dollar price tag that such a deal was originally deemed worth.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Mikko Soirola, from IT integration specialist Liaison Technologies

the sound of straight-from-Dilbert failed free advertising reverberates around El Reg's readeship...

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Mushroom

Re: Mikko Soirola

If you just popped by to try to sell us some cloud, you can just pop out again. Fast. Thank you and goodbye.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Mikko Soirola, from IT integration specialist Liaison Technologies

Hey genius...have you actually LOOKED at the regulations for using cloud solutions for sensitive financial data in the UK and the EU??? With advice such as yours, both banks can be quickly put out of business by the regulators so quickly that the lack of integration will not actually matter. There exist specialists in FinSvcs IT for a very good reason - we know the compliance issues. And you are obviously not one of us.

And I am a frequent commentator on this site, but posting as AC so that I don't sound like I am blowing my OWN horn in response. Instead, I blow my nose in the OP's general direction.

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xyz
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Re: Mikko Soirola, from IT integration specialist Liaison Technologies

Translation: I talk bollocks for a living.

The second para is priceless.

"Let's virtualise the process and put it in the cloud!!!"

When I hear shite like this, the spouter of the aforementioned shite gets told to eff off pronto and booted out the door.

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Re: spouter of the aforementioned shite

<snark>

Around WROK PALCE, spouters of the cloud based shit for mission critical services gets put into a Trebuchet and launched into a new career trajectory from the roof of the building.

The CEO has gotten so dammed good at aiming, she put the last ID10T into the driver seat of his car by landing him on its roof.

</snark>

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Facepalm

@Mikko Soirola

""That said, the growing ability to use cloud computing as a broker between highly disparate IT infrastructures is now making it possible to integrate IT where previously it was deemed impossible. This might be an example where traditional approaches to integration could have benefitted from fresh thinking.""

Sure, sure, the best way of integrating legacy stuff is to deploy a hybrid ESXi cloud on some (random) hosting company, and run MSDOS on a couple VMs that would take the complexity of having to understand anything away. That is for sure.

(Wait! why can not I bullshit too?)

What RBS should have done is learn how to leverage data and information to gain optimum operational business intelligence.

Wow I can do it too.

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