back to article RBS IT cockup: This sort of thing can destroy a bank, normally

The thing you have to remember about banking is that it's a confidence trick. As with all such things, once the confidence is gone the trick no longer works. That's what should be worrying the executives at NatWest and RBS over the shambles in their computer systems this week. As to what actually caused the problems, I'm …

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Re: It's amazing

I thought that what happened was that banks borrowed the money and lent it. They convinced someone that the IOU they got from the borrower was as good as money and lent that too (is that what Tim meant about creating money out of thin air?).

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Unhappy

Re: It's amazing

"We the voters must take responsibility of our part in this"

What - because we are too gutless to start an armed insurrection? Democracy - certainly as practiced in the UK - does not give you anything like the fine-grained control we need to prevent this sort of behaviour.

1) Politicians are not bound to stick to manifesto promises - in fact, they are almost bound not to.

2) Politicians are increasingly self (career) oriented, rather than state and/or society oriented.

3) The FPP system restricts the choice of government to two parties, both of which behave similarly in this respect.

I could go on. I believe in free-market capitalism, though I admit to being a bit of a small-L liberal. The problem we have had is that we will allow industry (e.g. 1970s British car industry) to go to well deserved oblivion, then we distort the market by preventing the banks from doing the same. This prevents them from doing proper risk analysis, because it us who bear all the risk, despite the fact we have no real means of relieving ourselves of the burden of doing so - nobody we can realistically elect will allow us to.

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FAIL

Re: It's amazing

"Please note it's Tax Payers that elect governments"

The problem with this, and pretty much everything run by our 'electoral' system is that thanks to safe seats and First Past The Post it's a surprisingly small number of tax payers who do actually elect governments. The rest of us just piss our vote away every 4 years.

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Re: It's amazing

Again sort off, if you have borrowed loads of money you need to get it to work - due to the volumes you have (only allowed because of the relaxed collateral requirements on Banks) you are forced to relax your lending requirements (i.e. removing the need for deposits etc....).

Then other Banks find it cheaper to borrow short term (six months or less) than long term but they use this money to provide long terms loans (Northern Rock) - this would be fine if you had sufficient collateral but Mr Brown had relaxed the rules on collateral and stopped proper regulation of the banks (See no evil Hear no evil the labour way to regulation).

The Bank Regulations should be there to protect people, the assumption should be that Bankers work for the good of themselves not the country and Mr Goodwin is a classic example of the this (Please note Mr Goodwin is an exception not the rule, most bankers try to be good), we need to find the bad ones before the economy is damaged .

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Re: It's amazing @The Axe

"But wasn't the banking collapse due to all those bad mortgages and not down to bad speculation? In which case splitting the banks into two won't have fixed the previous problems. It was the boring banking bit which caused the problems."

Yes and no. Much of the Big Financial Collapse that wiped out the investment banks was not caused per se by bad lending, but because the investment bank speculators created dodgy financial products called Collateralised Debt Obligations, that pooled large numbers of high risk loans and then split the resulting pool into different slices of risk and returns that could be profitably sold left right and centre. I have a brillant cartoon explanation of all this, not sure how I can send it to you! Anyway, those self same investment banks sat on the dodgiest, highest returning slices until they went pop, in part because they were in denial about the risks, in part because they wanted the high returns, and in largest part because the lowest ranking tranches were unsaleable. Admittedly the US retail banks that made the orginal NINJA loans (No Income, No Job or Assets) were part of the problem (in part because the US government strong-armed retail banks to lend in neighbourhoods where a prudent bank manager would only be seen dead - in all senses), but the financial engineering by the Wall Street investment banks concentrated the risk many times over in certain places. Like the basement of Lehman Brothers, or Bear Stearns.

As per the article, Northern Rock did have some unsavoury loans, it could have coped, but for the short term funding against long term assets. Even that wouldn't have come unstuck but for the global confidence crisis caused by the nuclear explosion of all the CDOs and related derivatives as mentioend above. So within the UK we've had and suffered the consequences of some CDO's and related derivatives. But we've had a homegrown crisis that is rather different, and in addition to the liquidity problems of Northern Rock, B&B et al. Much of our domestic bad debt problem has been essentially speculative business lending by the likes of RBS, whose thirst in the period 2002-2007 for what is called syndicated lending (often to private equity acqusitions) meant that it leant vast sums of money to unsustainable businesses across Europe. This enabled it to earn fat commissions as lead arranger for such syndicates, with hapless other banks sold chunks of the debt as well if they weren't careful. Combine this domestic greed and bad judgement with the international exposure to the US originated CDO's and you have the bad debt problems that meant we had to bail them out. So it wasn't the bread and butter commercial banking that caused the UK problems, but City based investment banking, based on piling debt into businesses that couldn't afford it in the long term, hoping that they could sell it on before it all went pear shaped. RBS then compounded this by some very unsavoury practices which are outlined in this link, some of which I've seen from the inside of an affected company:

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/ian-fraser/rbs-fraud-accusations-of-systemic-i_b_1579968.html

So I'd argue that it was only in small part that the boring bits that caused the problem, and largely the exciting, well paid yuppie bits, who also greatly exacerbated the bits they didn't cause directly.

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Thumb Up

Re: It's amazing

"Go back to boring high street banking, close the casino"

What he said

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Boffin

Re: It's amazing

Not true, really. It was the investment banking bits that decided that by packaging up mortgages from the retail banking in bundles they could sell them on as investments. At that point the investment banking was telling the retail banking [*] "Just get us more of this stuff so we can sell", the retail banks protested "but there are no more credit-worthy people to give mortgages to", and were overruled by "not to worry, loan the money to credit risks, we can hide the risk inside complexity, and anyway the house prices will keep going up indefinitely"... and the rest, as they say, is history.

In short if retail and investment banking had been kept separate, the retail banks would never have issued the subprime mortgages in the first place

*paraphrased for dramatic effect

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Re: It's amazing

@ The Axe 11:09

Thats what you are lead to believe. Far, from it. Those mortgages became useful to bundle into CDOs (collateralised debt obligations), CDSs (credit default swaps) and other SIVs structured investment vehicles.

The best analogy is a race horse. Joe says to Fred I bet you that the horse will win. David hears this and says to Sandra, I bet you Joe doesn't pay Fred if the horse wins. Sheila hears of the deal and says to Bob I bet you David doesn't pay Sandra. At some point you can even have Joe doing a deal with Sheila! This is why you may have heard in some media (even Radio 4 covered it) banks didn't even know how exposed they were to sub prime mortgages CDS etc.

Back to the mortgages - They basically became part of a portfolio where you deal on the future income and treat them as assets but the problem is that these portfolios can themselves also become bundled into other packages:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypothecation

. . . . which is then re-hypothecated. That is the reason why liar loans, became so popular. That is the reason finance companies would actually lie on your behalf, even if you didn't want them to. There are cases where a 60 year old mechanic was earning $250,000 a year etc etc. Problems were all pointed out to the governments and leading finance companies but the irony is that even chiefs that hated these models had to become involved or they would have been consumed by the companies that were abusing CDSs etc.

These packages became so complex because they were all bundled and placed into tranches of varying risk (some risky mortgages added to some safe mortgages, loans etc etc), these could then be re bundled. To figure out what was actually inside one of these bundles you would have to track back across huge numbers of 'spagetti transactions'. The rating agencies were intimidated by the finance companies who were out of their depth in assessing the real risk anyway so they just stamped them with triple A rating. If the SEC does start to cause problems then you create a branch in London which covers the insurance requirements and that keeps SEC happy.

Politically all was fine as the American Gov scored huge points with home ownership. The players just needed to keep issuing the money - FYI debt is created BEFORE the money is created.

Imagine paying rent in America and living in poverty (+ virtually no education) somebody knocks on your door and says look at the trend for property prices, we give you the money to buy this place, no deposit, nothing we do all the work and you just sign the dotted line. In just 2 years time you will be looking at approx 10s of thousand of dollars. These people signed up by the thousands, everybody is happy. Like all ponzis it will burst.

This is interesting and has also been placed on the gov Library in September 2008:

http://gregpytel.blogspot.co.uk/

Be sure to read the link from the above site to:

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200809/cmselect/cmtreasy/144/144w254.htm

Have fun folks, the sh*t still has not hit the fan, . . . . .

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Silver badge

Re: It's amazing

To make it very simple (it's much more complex these days), if we entirely ignore all the other complicated factors, banks are allowed to lend out some multiple of the amount of money that is deposited into them by customers. This is what is referred to as 'creating money out of thin air'. By some, anyhow.

Tim's point (I think) is that arguing about it tends to bring out a lot of complete whackjobs (especially American whackjobs - it's one of those areas where this is a whole sub-genre of American whackjobs with creative legal theories which ultimately mean they don't have to pay any taxes...) and send the debate utterly off the rails, and it is in fact irrelevant to his argument: even without the system, even when banks are/were allowed to lend out only the money that was deposited into them, the confidence problem happened. Even if a bank actually has assets to cover all its liabilities, it's hardly good news for a bank if all its customers show up at once and demand all their money back. Even if it can oblige them all, it's not going to be a healthy-looking business the next day, and all those staff still need paying. All the other complicating factors in modern finance muddy the waters even more, of course, and make reserve requirements even less important than the whackjobs tend to suggest.

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Dont worry its all insured

by the taxpayer.

"Sure, your or my account might have £5 in it: but on average over all of the bank accounts in the country one estimate has it that this float earns the banks £20 billion a year." Where'd that £50 billion go?

Its not the banks that you have to worry about - the powers that be will sacrifice the world economies before they'll let the banks fail.

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Mushroom

Too big to fail

It's another manifestation of the too-big-to-fail problem. Indeed if a majority of RBS's customers jump ship, then we've just gone from the big five to the big four and are just four more f**k-ups away from the big Zero. Gulp.

The answer might be for RBS to set up a new wholly-owned subsidiary with brand new state-of-the-art IT systems. Keep the fact that it is wholly-owned as quiet as possible. Milk exising customers for all they are worth (what's new?) while hoping that they jump ship to the new bank, along with disgruntled customers of their competitors.

Retailers and consumer-product manufacturers are forever doing this. Think Pepsico just makes Cola - probably not, but can you name all their brands?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Too big to fail

Heresy!

As someone that used to earn a crust occasionally biking computer tapes (think fat pizza boxes, four at a time on a busy day) between Natwest branches and a local HQ five times a day, any revision to the computer systems will put loads of outsourced labour out of work. Down with this sort of thing I say.

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Alert

It seems entire nation is waiting for El Reg readers to tell them whats going on

Tim Worstall: "I'm reading El Reg to find out myself ....The general view of Reg readers seems .... "

I've never seen so many El Reg readers comments copy pasted into mainstream media news sites,

which makes sense because RBS are telling the public f**k-all.

What I'd like to know is how can the single most catastrophic f**k up the banking sector has ever seen in the first world be called simply a "glitch" by the RBS/NatWest PR bimbo ?

The banking sector has been dependent on IT systems for the last 40 years and never has there been a downtime lasting a week.

In fact the typical 4 to 24 hour screw ups were now getting used to have only started happening since banks have started outsourcing.

C'mon Reg readers (especially you mainframe old fart readers)..

60 million Britons want to know whats going on.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It seems entire nation is waiting for El Reg readers to tell them whats going on

>The banking sector has been dependent on IT systems for the last 40 years and never has there been a downtime lasting a week.

They are probably trying to migrate from VMS to UNIX

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Re: It seems entire nation is waiting for El Reg readers to tell them whats going on

My guess is because it was someone important's fault, or the usual scapegoats have all been made redundant already.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It seems entire nation is waiting for El Reg readers to tell them whats going on

A reliable source tells me a terminating resistor fell off their coax network and the cleaners vacuumed it up. The whole IT department is going through hoover bags looking for it.

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Re: It seems entire nation is waiting for El Reg readers to tell them whats going on

Ex RBS here. From what I hear (Allegedly) it was an upgrade to CA7 that someone screwed up. CA7 is a bit of software that runs your batch jobs and allows you to add dependencies and start jobs to a stream of batch programs. If you fo' that up you effectively stop your bank working.

Now given that there hasn't been anything similar in the past 20 years at Natwest (which used OPC but lets not get bogged down in detail, they both ran big mainframe shops, Natwest much bigger and RBS didn't have the resource to complete the migration on their own) you can either guess that BMC left a bug in CA7 that only occured in when RBS ran the sofware and had failed to be picked up anywhere else on the plant.... or... someone who didn't know what they are doing cocked it up.

And of course RBS are not going to admit (even if it were true *cough*) that this is linked to the IT cost saving programmes that started around 2008 was in any way linked to what happened.

Repeat after me. All IT outsourcing (offshoring) deals save money and have zero impact on your business (tm).

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Mushroom

Re: It seems entire nation is waiting for El Reg readers to tell them whats going on

What happened was almost certainly a simple change to the overnight batch run. Not properly tested before implementation and caused a problem that was not caught before the end of the run. The batch run completed and the online systems were brought up for the next day and then the problem was spotted. You then have to back out the online transactions, back out the batch run back out the change, rerun the batch, reapply the online transactions. Unfortunately the overnight batch takes all night to run and doing all that other stuff is time intensive too. This problem stems from the RBS takeover of Natwest, RBS (small bank) management says "why the hell does this mainframe stuff take so long and cost so much?" Natwest management say "Well it's all the testing and expensive mainframe staff" RBS management look to India and thinks hmm......

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Re: It seems entire nation is waiting for El Reg readers to tell them whats going on

I used to work in the nondescript data centre next to NatWest's unmarked data centre in an undisclosed North London suburb. They had two VMSclusters in that building, on separate floors. IIRC, the live cluster had 9 nodes in it, the hot standby had 8 nodes or so.

They're probably trying to migrate from VMS to some cloudy/JSP/.NET/web2.0/Ruby shite, developed in and remotely managed from somewhere on the other side of the world that they could exploit as cheaply as possible. UNIX/linux can be made fairly reliable, they just need a bit of work.

When it absolutely, positively has to work - and keep working - VMS can't be beat. Even now, despite HP trying to kill it through neglect. Bastards.

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Re: "Terminating resistor"

Our network people had a good laugh at that one; and we needed it.

Currently we are reviewing our DR plans in case `Debby decides to do (in) Florida`.

That "fan" has not shut down yet, and it still could fling a lot of shit our way.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It seems entire nation is waiting for El Reg readers to tell them whats going on

Oh! Yah! Let's get some SFAAASHITAASIAASFAASSFA SOA!

I really miss VMS. It just never failed. Engineering. That's what it was. Engineering verus witchcraft.

Alas, being unable to sell their product, Kernighan and Ritchie, Straustrup, and all the other "Peace, Love, Dope" crowd at the Berkeley campus and various other places, had to give it away for free. It's amazing how such shit makes it in this business, by virtue of being crap and hence appealing to the nature of people who liked to fixed things in their command centres in their basements.

Now the banks are in the hands of "Enterprise Architects" who learned their trade from a book, which was written to solve the problem of how to make the authors richer.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It seems entire nation is waiting for El Reg readers to tell them whats going on

More ex-RBS here, the above sounds about right. It's shocking how much critical infrastructure support has been outsourced/offshored. The offshore resources are by far the worst, some of them are barely technically skilled and rely on scripts which were produced by the people who actually understood things but are long gone. The outsourced ones are in some cases far better, as they were a case of staff being moved to the outsourcing provider, so little in real terms has changed aside from the bank giving someone else (eg Accenture) money to give to the same people they employed in the first place.

I hope other institutions can learn from these mistakes.

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Anonymous Coward

The problem with moving your bank account is that -

- you'd have to move it to another bank.

One that won't go bust? One that won't have IT cock-ups? That's a very short list (zero items)

Mind you, this is all a lot of fuss about a payment systems glitch. Shit happens, it's just that we are normally better at covering it up.

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Facepalm

"It's a strange but true fact that while moving an account is quite easy (it's easier than moving house – yet people move house more often than banks), very few people actually do. The stickiness of personal banking is observable but not really explainable by standard economic theory"

Personally, the reason I don't switch banks is because I did it once before and for all its' faults my old bank turned out to be better than my new one. Fortunately I hadn't completely cancelled the account (just moved my direct debits and salary payments across) so I just moved them all back.

Since then I've basically been immune to all banks' branding as I figure they've all got dirty secrets that only customers have the misfortune of finding out.

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Unhappy

One tactic

... is to stick with banks which have not merged (at least not for several years). I've managed accounts with maybe 25 institutions in the past decade, and HBOS and RBS/NatWest are two shining/stinking examples: the vast majority of problems can be traced back (eventually) to inter-system incompatibility (not just IT: HR, training, paperwork, everything).

This *especially* applies to accounts for ex-pats and Power of Attorney, but increasingly affects "ordinary folk". Phone banking and internet banking are sometimes more problem-prone than branch, but not always.

I've also noticed an increasing trend for phone banking staff, when presented with virtually any issue, to trot out a default response of "you'll have to visit your branch". Whereas the previous trend in reverse was probably a corporate mandate ("reduce branch staffing, get customers to sort their problems online or using cheap callcentres") now I feel it's resignation or desperation on the part of the call centres ("our systems are broken and we don't understand them so we can't fix problems, and we don't have the time anyway, so push the problem/customer back to the branch, even though we doubt they can help").

Not good. Not good at all.

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Re: One tactic

So that's HSBC or Barclays, then?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: One tactic

HSBC Merged with Midland to get most of their UK customers.

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Meh

Re: One tactic

I know, but the HSBC - Midland merger was over 20 years ago. Also prior to that HSBC had no UK retail banking operation, so I doubt there was a merger/ transfer of IT systems at the customer end, just a takeover of the management end.

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Happy

Re: One tactic

I once went into a HSBC branch to sort out a credit card limit increase, the guy helpfully phoned India for me.

Branches these days are pension selling retail points and some cash machines.

I use HSBC's First Direct.

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Re: One tactic

In fairness - it looks a lot from dealing with HSBC commercially that they have essentially just rebranded it and probably not touched a lot of the bank end. The IBAN still refers to Midland and if you try and deal with them globally you quickly see that the different countries HSBC banks don't talk with each either systematically (or commercially) so I think they could well be untouched from an IT systems perspective

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Anonymous Coward

Re: One tactic

@Horned-Devil: Yep. In fact I think the only area where HSBC interacts in different countries is in the Premier Banking part which is entirely new.

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Re: One tactic

And Barclays hoovered up the Woolwich. Granted, the latter only had about ten account holders, but the principle still stands.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: One tactic

The merger may have been over 20 years ago but the international code for an account still starts with 'MIDL'.

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Anonymous Coward

Natwest have had a pretty bad image for a while, hence all this Helpful Banking campaign.

The icing on the cake for me was last year, when they told me that I'd never used online banking before, despite having using since 2002, denied all knowledge of it ever existing and had to make me a new account. That was my second clue, the first being only supporting Internet Explorer as the 'secure' browser, kicking everyone else out.

I'm just waiting for the Metro Bank in Reading to be finished, much more convenient for me and can't realistically be any worse than Natwest, who at one point used to flag every transaction I made over £100 as fraud, and then not tell you about it until you try to buy something some other time.

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Silver badge

I left NatWest years ago when they first introduced their Online Banking. It was IE-only, needed ActiveX controls (so you couldn't even fake it) and it was a heap of junk.

Out of principle, I refused to use it, complain via their contact section (they sent a politely worded "No" to my request to allow Opera or at least some Netscape-browser to access it) and moved my account. That one, sole reason actually cost them my account. They probably didn't care at all.

A bank that FORCES me to use IE (and accepted IE6 usage!) shouldn't be handling my money, or anyone else's. Simple as that.

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To be fair to them, they've fixed that particular problem long ago, and i can do my online banking from my linux boxes.

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Anonymous Coward

I feel like writing a stiff letter of complaint to Natwest, multiple times, and charging them £40 for each copy

The helpful bank

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"how many of those customers are sufficiently pissed off to move?"

I've looked at this and, because of the way I organise my finances, there's really no benefit for me to move from Nat West to any other bank as there's nothing to stop them having a similar cock-up in the future.

Ok, it was a PITA when I only had £15 in my wallet and couldn't get any more cash out, but it wasn't an absolute disaster. Yes, I could set up a second, back-up, account and leave some money in there, but it would be doing sod all (and earning sod all interest!) and it's not worth doing just in case my main bank (whichever it may be) goes tits up again.

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Meh

Re: "how many of those customers are sufficiently pissed off to move?"

Ever since I had savings, I always took the attitude that I should never keep them with any institution from which I had borrowed money or even with which I had a credit agreement. If you look at the T&Cs, they reserve the right to help themselves to your savings ("offset") if you're deemed to be in breach of your borrowing agreement. Who knows what definition of "in breach" is programmed into their computers? I wonder if even the banks do?

I felt this particularly strongly while I had a mortgage. If things had ever gone tits-up outside my control, the bank could not have siezed my savings without first getting a court order (which in practice would have meant bankrupcy proceedings).

You're probably right about moving your account being pointless. A bunch of tenners cached somewhere in your home is probably a better idea.

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Silver badge

Re: "how many of those customers are sufficiently pissed off to move?"

And they might now invest in IT, reducing the chance of a another cock up.

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Re: they might now invest in IT

Are you fucking NUTS!!!

"Invest in IT"???

That can not happen - it does not `increase shareholder value`!!!!

Manglement that thinks like that after such a disaster should be taken out, drawn and quartered.

</sarcasm>

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Silver badge

@Graham Marsden

"I've looked at this and, because of the way I organise my finances, there's really no benefit for me to move from Nat West to any other bank as there's nothing to stop them having a similar cock-up in the future."

You don't think that RBS have shown themselves to be systematically incompetent in almost every respect? Bailed out by the state because of their inept business lending and corporate speculating, accused of fraudulent practices at their own AGM, persistently in the public eye for big bonuses accompanied by inadequate financial performance, and now extending their ineptitude to their retail customers. And just to add insult to injury, they're going to transfer a load of their happy customers to Santander, widely seen (until now) as Britain's worst bank for customer service.

I respect your right to decide to stay with Natwest, but don't you think that there is a fairly strong trend here? I've never looked back since I moved from RBS to Nationwide, who I'm sure have their own tribulations. The trigger for me was the dishonest behaviour of RBS corporate banking arm, and I now have an essentially dormant RBS account, kept open only because it costs them a few quid each year (like a few other commentards, I see).

On the basis that RBS/Gnatwest seem to be able to make any situation worse, I'd have thought there was a specific and real risk of staying with them. OK so they're state owned, but any bank gets bailed out these days (plus the FCS covers all high street banks of any scale), so surely better to be with somebody who doesn't quite have the stench of failure hanging around them quite so pervasively?

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Vic

Re: @Graham Marsden

> Santander, widely seen (until now) as Britain's worst bank for customer service.

I've seen this many times, but I have to say, I've found them pretty good so far.

I've had a much more lpeasant experience with them than the one I got from HSBC :-(

Vic.

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Re: @Graham Marsden

Santander make it very easy to put your money in. They are total bastards when it comes to getting it out again. Santander is a Spanish bank. Is that the sound of a penny dropping? Good luck!

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Vic

Re: @Graham Marsden

> They are total bastards when it comes to getting it out again

As I said, I've not experienced that yet. I've been with them for about 3 years.

Vic.

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Boffin

Annual DR Exercise results

Disaster Recover excercise may be considered a success (technically) - systems successfully discontinued before establishing a managed slow return to the state existing several days before commencement. The Business Continuity Plan need tightening up a little, findings suggest it is perhaps a little too robust; savings from reducing reliance on standby manual may be able to be realised. However, as is the norm for IT Projects, the Communications Plan needs to be revisited. Suggest we re-examine the present resource.

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Anonymous Coward

Ha ha, fooled you

You didn't think they would make it easy to actually close an account, did you?

(5 years of £0, 'must be done in writing', many letters, not a single reply)

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Uncloseable account

I have a credit card account which I cannot close (translation: the bank does not know how to close) because some ****up means they owe me 22p. I've on various occasions asked them to donate the 22p to charity, to send me a cheque, to just lose it in their error account .... They always say they've fixed it. Three months later I get another statement telling me that they still owe me 22p. I no longer have a card, so I can't go out and buy something and then get the balance to zero second time around.

The problem was latent for a number of years after I thought I'd closed the account, and only surfaced when a UK bank bought all the customers of my onetime credit card company which was closing down its UK operations. I guess that once an reverse-indebtedness of 22p was transferred from one database to another, there was/is no programmed mechanism for sorting it out.

I guess that on the bright side, my 22p means that the bank has contributed getting on for fifty times that amount to the Royal Mail, which needs all the help it can get! (Wonder what happens when I pop my clogs ... will they still be sending statements to "Executor of your truly, deceased" in the year 2200? Or perhaps inflation will finally cure the problem when the pound eventually becomes the smallest unit of UK currency?

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Re: Uncloseable account

If they're paying interest, that's your meal at the Restaurant at The End of The Universe sorted!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Uncloseable account

When I worked for Digital I took advantage of the employee share scheme and got a few shares. Later on I put in an order to sell ALL the shares (radio button option ALL, not a number of shares or a dollar amount) when they hit a certain value. Before they hit there was a dividend and I ended up with about an extra half HP share. When the target was met instead of selling all the shares they sold the ones I had when I placed the order and so I've been left with half a share for about ten years. Every year I get the all the company accounts bumpf and a voting slip for shareholder meetings. The latter I just disagree with all the recommendations and send it back. I also get tax statements which inform me that I've got an extra 0.19c dividend and they've witheld 0.07c in tax. It must be costing them many times the value of any benefit they get from managing half a share but what am I to do? They didn't complete the order as put. If I sell again I'll get a cheque for about $10 which will cost me more to cash it. And how can I donate half a share?

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