back to article You can forget about that Black Friday deal: Brit banks crap out just in time for pay day

UK banks Royal Bank of Scotland, FirstDirect and NatWest are all struggling to keep their websites up today, which is nice considering it's pay day. Earlier this afternoon, NatWest posted the following to Twitter: ⚠️ Our Online Banking, mobile app and Bankline are currently facing intermittent problems. We're working hard …

  1. Khaptain Silver badge

    Bonus Payouts

    As long as managers bonus payouts are not affected then nothing is ever likely to change.

    And there is no point looking for a particular responsable person as the person that is ultimately in charge is the Managing Director, end of story.

    1. iron Silver badge

      Re: Bonus Payouts

      Indeed. They'll just nominate the poor IT director, not provide enough budget to actually meet the requirements and throw them under the bus when the shit hits the fan.

      1. Chris G Silver badge

        Re: Bonus Payouts

        Yeah, and the IT Director will in turn nominate some PFY to be the fallguy if anything should actually go to court. " Just sign this my lad and we'll get you an executive chair and a bigger desk."

      2. macjules Silver badge

        Re: Bonus Payouts

        Hah! Having worked at that behemoth (albeit only for a 6 month contract thank God) their IT director will pass it to one of his 10 minions, one of whom will nominate a divisional manager to be sacrificed.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        Re: IT? Not so much.

        Here's a little story : in a bank in Luxembourg, a peon was brought in from a staffing company to oversee secure transmission of financial data in PDF format. His job was basically to drag PDFs from on folder to a different folder in a different folder in a different environment. Fascinating job, I know, but hey, apparently they pay (peanuts) for it.

        Of course, he was surrounded by high-level personnel and management who were, as I was told, telling him to go faster and faster as the minutes went by. What had to happen happened, and the poor guy mis-clicked and opened a PDF instead of dragging it over. He closed the file immediately, but that did not prevent him from being fired on the spot.

        So sorry, but you can get fired in IT just as fast as anywhere else, if you're in the wrong place at the wrong time.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: IT? Not so much.

          If true, the usual trash in management/systems design/process design.

          You could lock out his user permissions to copy only, and "load/open" disabled. In the easiest way, by not installing a PDF viewer on the PC/system (or whatever level of OS/data structure it is, COBAL etc).

          So, instead of spending the 5 mins making a safe process (fax confidential data in plain view, nope, instead fax it direct to the office that has the authority to view it for example) they save "time" and "wages" getting someone setup to fail.

      2. tfb Silver badge

        Re: Bonus Payouts

        Part of the problem is that front office staff know they can be fired or even disbarred from the industry if they deliberately break laws or flout the SYSCs. IT? Not so much.

        This is not true. For a start, IT staff are subject to the same rules as everyone else who works in financial service organisations: you get vetted, you get the training, you get disbarred from working in finance if you do bad things. As well as that there are the normal disciplinary procedures that happen in any organisation: if you were to intentionally break things you would get warned/suspended/sacked in the usual way.

        And this actually works: I have seen no evidence of intentional misconduct of this kind in banking IT (I no longer work in it but I am married to someone who does). The problems I have seen are just the overwhelming difficulty of maintaining a hugely complex estate much of which is old (unlike Google, say, banks don't get the luxury of just turning off things when they get boring), combined sometimes with just plain lack of competence – shell scripts written by people who really did not understand how to write safe programs, let alone in the shell, being run over thousands of systems, for instance. The very worst cases I've seen have been sunk-cost errors – 'this needs to happen this weekend because we've spent to much money on it, even though technical people (like me) are saying it's not safe to do this' – usually being driven down from very senior management.

    3. jonha

      Right... but there's more to it than just the managers

      +1 for that comment although it's not only greedy and/or incompetent managers and MDs.

      In four words: the Brits are sheep.

      1. Claverhouse Silver badge

        Re: Right... but there's more to it than just the managers

        No idea what you expect ordinary citizens to do with regard to banking site websites.

        Any more than the average American can affect the ransomware failures recently affecting care homes via the unfortunate Virtual Care Provider Inc.. Bad stuff happens.

        If that sounds glib, the NatWest one affected me: I did a couple of minor transfers betwixt accounts and found whilst the source accounts were debited, the receiving accounts were not credited. After some checks and refreshes I just closed the tab and did other stuff for 6 hours without worrying, then logging back it, found it was all serene.

        Rarely any need to panic.

        1. jonha

          Re: Right... but there's more to it than just the managers

          > No idea what you expect ordinary citizens to do with regard to banking site websites.

          That's a 100% correct remark, I have no idea either.

          But it's missing the wider point I am trying to make. In my extended family I have French, Swiss, German and Portuguese relatives. Almost all of these good people are utterly, totally befuddled, either when visiting the UK or upon reading some media stuff, about the levels of service or performance in various areas (public transport, politics etc) the British public is willing to accept without any real protest other than perhaps a sour smile and the odd mustn't grumble. This attitude may have some positive aspects but it also means that IN THE LONG RUN things just don't get better.

        2. Korev Silver badge

          Re: Right... but there's more to it than just the managers

          If that sounds glib, the NatWest one affected me: I did a couple of minor transfers betwixt accounts and found whilst the source accounts were debited, the receiving accounts were not credited. After some checks and refreshes I just closed the tab and did other stuff for 6 hours without worrying, then logging back it, found it was all serene.

          How many digits would you have had needed to have been worried? That could have been a transfer to buy a car or a house...

    4. LucreLout Silver badge

      Re: Bonus Payouts

      And there is no point looking for a particular responsable person as the person that is ultimately in charge is the Managing Director, end of story.

      Sorry, but that's not right. "Managing Director" is just a corporate title in the City - it's a pay grade effectively. Large banks have literally thousands of MDs.

      As long as managers bonus payouts are not affected then nothing is ever likely to change.

      This is true. But then they persist with outsourcing everything they can to the cheapest offshorians they can find; so its no surprise to most of us when things fall apart.

      Good people cost money. Cheap people are cheap for many reasons, and not just geography.

  2. iron Silver badge

    > the traditional marketing hypegasm that is Black Friday

    If something has happened 3 or 4 times (in the UK) can you really call it traditional? I think I've bought something in a BF sale once.

    1. Blockchain commentard Silver badge
      Coat

      BF sale - Big F*&%ing sale?

      1. TimMaher Bronze badge
        Coat

        I’ll upvote yours if...

        I’m looking for a heavily discounted BFG9000.

    2. mark l 2 Silver badge

      Indeed my parents who emigrated to Australia in 2014 had never heard of black friday when they came over last year. Although it now made its way over to Australia as well.

      And its not like things are particularly cheaper today either. Something on Amazon that I purchased a few weeks ago for £10 is now £15 today.

      Anyone who works in retail knows that sales are a big marketing gimmick to get rid of slow moving lines they can't sell at full price anyway, or clear out last years stock.

    3. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

      I thought BF on the second year turned from the mass of people punching and kicking for some crap TV into 1 person waiting for the store to open.

      1. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge
        Coat

        I did despair when they first imported the American Atrocity but it seems Brits soon caught on to the nonsense that it is. I am sure there are some bargains to be had but most people have figured it is simply an appeal to base instincts and greed with shops having the last laugh.

        This year it seems retail shops are mostly just going through the motions, putting "Black Friday Sale" signs up but with little by way of actual sale.

        On-line may be a bit better, more useful, particularly if "everything X% off", but I rarely check as it's usually all sold-out before I look to see what might be on sale.

        A pox on "Black Friday Sales", and "Trick or Treat".

      2. The Nazz Silver badge

        Yeah

        What a highly memorable clip, some woman at Batley (says it all really) four rows back, flailing helplessly towards a cheap (and low priced) Television which she had no hope whatsoever of reaching. But that never deterred her. She was persistent. Comedy gold.

    4. Jan 0
      Headmaster

      Not traditional, but firmly established?

      I'm a British subject, living in the UK and I haven't visited the USA since the '90s, nor was I ever there in November. I bought the laptop I'm typing on, in the UK, on BF 2011. I was certainly aware of BF at least a year before that. So it's not traditional, but has been established for maybe a decade in the UK. Today. I'm typing in Italy, where the shops and shoppers seem to have gone crazy for BF.

  3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Watch out for them announcing a few more branch closures today. One lot of bad news is good cover for them to announce another. That's what TSB did.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Two sides of pay day.....

    For those of us who run small businesses payday has two sides. Took me a few attempts to get onto NatWest earlier today " This service is temporarily unavailable", but once I got on it seemed to be as responsive as normal and I had no problems putting payroll and other end of month stuff through. Hopefully the money has all gone out to the right places.....

  5. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Eggs, baskets...

    Seems you need at least to be a customer of two different banks from two different banking groups, preferably using two different card companies.

    And have 20 quid in your shoe.

    1. TimMaher Bronze badge
      Happy

      Re: Eggs, baskets...

      All those coins make me limp.

      1. LucreLout Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: Eggs, baskets...

        All those coins make me limp.

        Switch to BitCoin; It makes me hard.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Eggs, baskets...

      Practically been doing this since my late teens. Though it was as the new job insisted same banking firm for them and employees, I guess to avoid transfer fees etc, but of cause did mean (back then) payments cleared faster (though they technically could also check on your spending, as umbrella firms etc).

      Have never been affected long enough by anything to actually stop me paying/covering shopping unless the entire whole country is down with everything.

    3. Avatar of They

      Re: Eggs, baskets...

      I do. Ironically (or not) my two banks from different groups were Natwest and First Direct.

      Typical.

  6. IGotOut

    It may of started before then.

    I was unable to log in about 2:45 am.

    Just kept getting a "Check your internet connection" . Tried both 4g and home internet.

    1. Strahd Ivarius
      Trollface

      Re: It may of started before then.

      that was because it worked only with 5G

  7. Winkypop Silver badge
    Devil

    Ahhhhh "shared services"

    Pronounced: "shit services"

  8. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    TSB

    What? TSB actually managed to weather the storm?

    What sorcery is this?

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: TSB

      I just got a mail from Beelzebub; he was complaining about how cold his hooves were and that he wasn't use to that.

    2. TechnicalBen Silver badge

      Re: TSB

      Nah, they just have the computers on the other side of the failover. TSB fails every other time to RBS. XD

  9. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Black Friday

    Black Friday is the biggest load of bollocks ever thought out.

    This year's (Bl)cack Friday fell after payday, which make me wonder how many people will be financially strained in the first two/three weeks of December. And how many will have to apply for financial rescue or whatever in January. Just glad we're not in that boat.

    SWAMBO took the kids to the ice rink yesterday, and wanted to get a new pillow (for myself), but left it as the shops was quite packed, and some shops really try to rip you off.

  10. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

    Black Friday to me is just an amazon thing. Well, there was also a local tool company which had a billboard advertising their “massive 12-hour sale”. I didn’t even know you could buy drills anywhere else but amazon come to think of it. Are we allowed to do that?

  11. kmedcalf

    What is the Problem?

    You Brits must be doing something considerably different that we do over in the Colonies (Canada, eh). It does not matter a rats arse to me whether a banks website is working or not as it has no effect on anything at all -- sort of like complaining that the pretty lights won't turn blue -- a mere temporary inconvenience of no consequence.

    Now an outage to a Banks back-end systems would be not nice, nor would an outage affecting the various transaction processors. However, this was dealt with 40 years ago and there are procedures in place to handle such contingencies.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: What is the Problem?

      It's not because you never have to check your account balance or transfer money somewhere that nobody else does either.

      Some people actually work with their online banking account, believe it or not, and when the site is down it's a serious inconvenience to say the least.

      1. kmedcalf

        Re: What is the Problem?

        I find this kind of hard to believe. What on earth did y'all do in the "old days" when there was no such thing as "Online Banking"? (Though that would be really old days -- I think I had access to "online banking" over here in the colonies since about 1990 or thereabouts.

        What could ever be so urgent that it requires you to access "online banking" right now this very instant?

        I believe the old adage "A failure to plan on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part" applies.

        1. Kiwi Silver badge
          Holmes

          Re: What is the Problem?

          What could ever be so urgent that it requires you to access "online banking" right now this very instant?

          Lemme see.. Paying bills, paying worker's wages, transferring money between accounts so obligations, needs (or desires) can be met..

          Back in the 90s I could go to a local branch and do that stuff. Nowadays there are few local branches. Some people in NZ have a couple of hours drive to get to the nearest branch of any bank, let along the one they actually use.

          And when it comes to payroll, you better have the right amount in at the right time, otherwise it can really mess people's lives up. And don't think you can go to the local branch and get them to transfer the money based on your printouts - the queue behind you will be quite murderous if you hog the one and only teller in a mid-city branch for even a few minutes.

          Few people today have a large full-service bank branch with an excess of tellers nearby. And for those that do, you'll often find excess fees for any in-branch activity (eg my old bank, $3 fee per transaction - ask for a balance of your accounts, transfer money from one account to another, and withdraw $5 for lunch - there's $9 in fees!)

          1. Robert D Bank

            Re: What is the Problem?

            all those thieving Aussie owned banks shafting NZ..they get away with way to much

            1. Kiwi Silver badge
              Pint

              Re: What is the Problem?

              Yup. I left them years back, these days with TSB who are still fully Kiwi owned AFAICT (and avoided the mass mergers the gubbermints promised would be good for the country (and they were right too - just not my country!). Hear good things about Kiwibank as well.

              But would forever avoid the unCooperative Wank. They make the ozzie banks look nice, and extremely competent.

            2. Clunking Fist Bronze badge

              Re: What is the Problem?

              Thankfully, those thieving Aussie banks seem to keep their worst behaviour close to home: NZers express higher levels of satisfaction with their (Aussie) banks than their Aussie cousins do.

        2. Dan 55 Silver badge

          Re: What is the Problem?

          Ok, I'll bite:

          I guess 30-40 years ago every month you started off from the previous month's statement and tallied up cheque stubs and card receipts that you had been accumulating and you made payments for utilities using cheque, bank transfer, or going round to their showroom or office or whatever and paying instead of setting up direct debits. If there were no discrepancies you filed away the current month's statement and destroyed the bits of paper you didn't need otherwise you complained to the bank.

          Now cheques are practically extinct as are branches, showrooms, and offices, most utilities are paid by direct debit but you may not know the amount till after it's taken out, online card payments don't generate receipts unless you print them out yourself, continuous payment authorities are a thing, debit and credit card holds are a thing too but you might not know exactly how much is being held till you log in, you may have other financial products with their own balance and statements which charge to your bank account (e.g. PayPal), and your bank statement is more of a floating window over a list of transactions, certainly during the past few weeks.

          If you were to wait a month before checking your account and there's fraud on your debit card your current account might get emptied out. Also, if you were to report fraud a month later you might not even be taken seriously.

          So those are reasons to log in every few days and keep an eye on your account.

        3. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Re: What is the Problem?

          What on earth did y'all do in the "old days". WTF has that got to do with anything Grandpa? We have computers now so most of the time you dont need to get into your horse and carriage and ride through the knee deep shit that lines the streets. Now STFU and go and check no-ones taken one of your menhirs.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What is the Problem?

      It doesn't help that most (if not all) banks are getting rid of branches like they're radioactive waste - there was a report that suggested in the region of 40% of all bank branches would be shut within 3 years. As it is, all 3 banks that had branches where I live have shut them, meaning a 20 minute car journey (and probably 10 minutes trying to park) to get to the nearest branch.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    many banks relying on shared services in the form of the same cloud providers

    but how could it be that banks handling BILLIONS regularly, probably daily, have failed to make provisions for that?!

    :D

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge
      Trollface

      But they have made a provision for that : they trusted The Cloud (TM) which told them it was always available.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Having also contracted in big banks, I can confirm that almost all permanent IT managers in such places would struggle to find the on switch for their kettle. Even the 20 year old power utility systems I've worked on elsewhere outshine Banks IT.

  14. MR J

    We didn't have any issues early in the day, later in the day it was difficult to log in but once you got there it worked.

    While it's annoying that a system is down, I have to say that there weren't any, from what I can see at least, data leaks or total meltdown issues. So the service was overloaded and everyone is mad, not saying they should be happy but other providers have had melt downs in the past and start sharing account information with the wrong people and all sorts of erroneous things. Even today I am still having issues logging in, but once in everything seems to work okay, and everything looks correct so it's a bit meh. We are in the lower 12% of earners and were fine so I find it odd so many people struggle to cope for a few hours.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Black Friday Deals?

    ROFL

    As Amazon says, 'In your dreams bozo'

    Stay at home with your credit/debit cards firmly under lock and key.

    Then come the new year you will have money left rather than being stoney broke.

    Do you nead all that extra tat anyway?

    1. Clunking Fist Bronze badge

      Re: Black Friday Deals?

      I don't need any more tat. But after repeated droppings, and in spite of a hefty case, my fondle-slab needs replacing. Thus I was quite keen on many of the deals going, particularly the S10 and 10e with nearly 45% off.

      However, in the end, I thought, why not just put a bit of duct tape on the back to stop the bits of glass from falling out. Who will see it, inside the case? As long as the camera and wireless charging keeps working...

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm exposing myself as a boomer by making this comment, but ...

    ... how weird is it that Black Friday is a thing in the UK? Then again, I read that Halloween is starting to take off in France, albeit slowly. US cultural/business traditions spreading beyond US borders courtesy of global commerce and opportunities for profit... On second thought, I might be exposing myself as an anti-globalization radical who yearns for the halcyon days when the Dutch wore wooden shoes, the French never went anywhere without a baguette tucked under an arm, and Cockneys tugged at their forelocks and called their betters "Guvnor." [And Yanks, you ask? John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart, to a man. Including the women.] ;-)

    1. Jan 0
      Angel

      Re: I'm exposing myself as a boomer by making this comment, but ...

      This cultural engulfment is no weirder than the way that we Bulge Babies, gradually got to be called (Baby) Boomers after Trivial Pursuit - Baby Boomer Edition made it's way across the Atlantic in the '80s.

      Closest icon that I can find for a Bulge Baby

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Re: I'm exposing myself as a boomer by making this comment, but ...

      Halloween is Irish, as I'm sure you know.

      1. TimMaher Bronze badge
        Happy

        Re: I'm exposing myself as a boomer by making this comment, but ...

        Not too sure there @Dan.

        <pedantry snarkasm=slight>I think that the festival even pre-dates “All Hallows Eve” after which it is named.

        See also “All Saints and All Souls”.</pedantry>

        We do turn the lights off and pretend to be out though.

        Is that traditional?

        1. Danny 2 Silver badge

          Re: I'm exposing myself as a boomer by making this comment, but ...

          That is traditional, and though you probably feel sad for admitting it there is something sadder.

          Nobody visited my parents this year despite them buying lots of sweets in expectation and lots of kids on their street.

          They've consistently chided 'trick or treat'ers that they are guisers, and demanded a joke or whatever, so now the kids just avoid them.

          If a single guiser had came by then they'd have got £20 of sweeties and a whole load of money. Not candy.

          1. TimMaher Bronze badge
            Unhappy

            Re: I'm exposing myself as a boomer by making this comment, but ...

            Now that truly is a sadness @D.

            Upvote for bringing it to our attention.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I'm exposing myself as a boomer by making this comment, but ...

          All Saints Day incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before was known as All Hallows Eve, and later Halloween. However, Halloween’s origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain source

          Historically, it was widely observed throughout Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man. source

  17. Imhotep

    Everyone Else Is Doing It

    I thought Black Friday was a uniquely American travesty. Give thanks on the last Thursday in November, then go out the next day to indulge in an orgy of excessive consumption.

    Ahhh, you're no better than we are.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Everyone Else Is Doing It

      The difference is we don't give thanks on the Thursday, we just indulge in the orgy of excessive consumption on Friday.

      And the prices are probably down from last week but raised from two weeks ago anyway.

      1. Danny 2 Silver badge

        Re: Everyone Else Is Doing It

        Thanksgiving is celebrated in most of the UK - that time we got rid of those religious extremists.

  18. Danny 2 Silver badge

    The almost okay boomers

    I bought my dad an echo dot, the first time I've ever participated in Black Friday. He has dementia and can no longer use his iPod or the mobile phone I stuck his music on, can't even work the TV remote control consistently, plus he keeps forgetting to take his pills. I'll find out tomorrow if he can learn and remember to ask Alexa to do those things. I also bought a Hue lightbulb to impress his younger, richer brothers.

    I think caring for the elderly is the silver bullet for invasive tech. My mum was buying a device when the Snowden revelations were coming out and I said she shouldn't buy it because the police could track her through it. She replied, "But I'd quite like the police to be able to track me in case I wander off somewhere."

    That made me want to buy my dad a smartwatch. Luckily he didn't find any of them fashionable enough - I couldn't have afforded any of them - but tomorrow he meets Alexa. It's dystopia but it's home.

    1. Kiwi Silver badge
      Angel

      Re: The almost okay boomers

      I think caring for the elderly is the silver bullet for invasive tech. My mum was buying a device when the Snowden revelations were coming out and I said she shouldn't buy it because the police could track her through it. She replied, "But I'd quite like the police to be able to track me in case I wander off somewhere."

      That, sadly, is part of the plan. I can fully understand where you're coming from of course, and I know how difficult it is to help those with dementia and other similar issues.

      To gain acceptance it has to make lives easier. For those worried about their kids, there's the phone and other trackers. For those worried about crims, same thing (at least the crims they're worried enough about to track but not so much as to keep locked up). Pets get microchipped and no doubt there are human versions as well. I mean after all a pet or severely-enough mentally handicapped person cannot tell you where they live.

      (And for the extra downvotes I'll earn - many of us with a Christian bent were predicting GPS tracking and RFID/NFC/similar chips long before either technology was actually invented. But we didn't see how the corporations would quietly sneak so much of it in as useful tech rather than the governments mandating it all in one sudden rush of anti-privacy 1984-esque legislation (though I can't recall anything in the book suggesting the tech came in suddenly, but I've only read it once and that was a while back. Yup, I'm desperate to crack 2,000 downvotes so please help me on my way!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The almost okay boomers

      She replied, "But I'd quite like the police to be able to track me in case I wander off somewhere."

      Tell her she's excluded because she isn't an extremism, a drug trader, a minecraft server script kiddo or anything else that police are looking for.

  19. eionmac

    Sometimes a real problem with Imprest Accounts (e.g. a current account kept at certain level by top up or top down from or to another larger account, think type used by army or governments to give departments purchasing payment methods ) On the bank fail day they send all pre-set payments out at 8 am but never topped up so account went into technical overdraft. Big fail for many days. Had to top up almost hourly and when no log in major troubles. Sometimes no log in for 3 to 4 hours available. Real pain!

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