back to article 'Tis the season to be wobbly: HSBC online and mobile banking services suffer not one but two major outages in 12 hours

HSBC’s mobile and online banking services went absent without leave in the UK last night and are missing in action again this morning, just as Brits begin panicking about any last minute buys they need to make for Chrimbo. According to outage reporting tool DownDetector, HSBC's – and its customers' – troubles began shortly …

  1. Groove-Cat

    Cash is King.

    that is all. :)

    Happy Fridays, everyone.

    1. Claverhouse Silver badge

      Re: Cash is King.

      Are you paid in cash ? Straight from the cashier's cage ?

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: Cash is King.

        Comes in a pneumatic tube and everything.

        1. PhilipN Silver badge

          Re: Cash is King.

          Away - back to the ‘50’s with you!

          Nobody knows what pneumatic tubes are these days (except fans of “Brazil”).

    2. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: Cash is King.

      And also an absolute pain in the arse.

      Sod paying my car tax, council tax, TV licence, gas, water, electricity, telephone, broadband, car insurance, etc. in cash every month.

      I basically live a cash-free life. Hell, in the last three years, I literally accumulated only £65 of change... and I paid that into a bank only because I go annoyed with it building up (people giving me money for things, change from notes, buying things online for people who don't like doing things online, etc.).

      Hell, I bought a Square reader cheap off Amazon for if anyone feels they need to share a bill with me.

      Your cash can't be used for a lot of things, is entirely impractical, a theft target, and has no more stability or value than a number in a bank account.

      Just do what any sensible person does with *any* money they have - don't keep it all in the same place. Or, given it's an IT site: Always have a backup.

    3. The Real Satoshi Nakamoto

      Re: Cash is King.

      I might have an idea that could greatly complicate future outages ....

  2. juice Silver badge

    Definitely annoying...

    Last night around 8pm, the HSBC app was claiming that my phone wasn't connected to the internet, despite everything else working as per BAU. Around 10pm, I managed to log in to double check that a direct debit was correctly set up.

    And then it just sat and timed out this morning when I attempted to log into to check on how much of the Xmas paycheck hadn't already been allocated to mince pies.

    Seems to be back up again now, but definitely not the best time of year for this sort of thing to happen...

    1. David 132 Silver badge

      Re: Definitely annoying...

      It's depressing how many mobile app vendors say "you have no Internet connection" when they actually mean to say, "I can't connect to my server". Because heaven forfend that the connection problem might be at the back end... much easier to blame it on the user, right?

      1. commonsense

        Re: Definitely annoying...

        Some go the other way, apologising and even saying "it's me, not you" even when it's not.

  3. Chris G Silver badge

    IoB

    The Internet of Banks seems little better than the IoT with regard to reliable function.

    My bank Caixa is constantly sending SMS messages and emails telling me how great their app is, the apps and emails also have an opt out button,no matter how many times I use it or tell them in the office that I am opting out, I stlll get the messages.

    And they wonder why I have no confidence in their app!

  4. Julz Silver badge

    Hum

    Is it just the app or does it affect other web services? I've never felt the need to use a banks app. Am I missing out on some Unicorns that I don't know about.

    1. Blockchain commentard Silver badge

      Re: Hum

      I was trying web based banking this morning. Was cursing my ISP for being crap but other sites (like this worked) so I just swore at HSBC. Eventually pages updated, but it was like a MITM attack where they were using an old XT PC (remember them!!!).

    2. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: Hum

      The app supposedly can provide all of my banking needs online, fortunately, I live in the boonies and my nearest branch is a Rural (has farming services) branch so is mostly empty but even if customers are in there I rarely nee to wait more then 10 minutes or so before I can talk to a human if need be.

      The ATMs are still on Win7 as far as I can tell, they drop in and out of service on a whim and at times whatever link they are on slows down to about 1byte/s so I have little confidence in the likelihood of the app being any better, in addition to which, I feel the continuing move to online banking everywhere just means less and less service and the total removal of humans in the loop .

  5. james_smith Silver badge

    Amazon wobbling as well

    Just tried buying an Amazon gift card in a shop, and apparently Amazon's whole point of sale support for selling physical gift cards has been down all day.

    1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      Re: Amazon wobbling as well

      I was in the queue at lunchtime behind someone trying to buy an Amazon gift card, and the cashier said exactly what you've said. I looked on El Reg, expecting to see a story and have a laugh - but not a dicky bird.

      (Are they using HSBC?)

  6. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    I arrived home yesterday...

    ...to find a big parcel addressed to my wife on the table.

    "NatWest have sent me a replacement Debit Card" she volunteered.

    Speechless at this seemingly audacious attempt to deprive HP as the masters of overpackaging*, she explained that an ATM had swallowed her card in a recent outage and they had written to her separately saying "here's a new card, apologies, you will receive a hamper as compensation for your inconvenience."

    * https://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/12/22/hp_box/

    https://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/07/18/hp_packaging/

    https://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/07/23/enormouse/

    etc., etc.

  7. LeahroyNake Silver badge

    absent without leave

    I assume that was originally written as AWOL then changed in a edit, editor?

    I would have gone for Total Inability To Support Usual Payments myself.

    Happy Christmas!

  8. SuperGeek

    99.999% SLA

    Why can't everyday users get it in their heads there's no such thing as 100% uptime? As soon as it goes down for 10 seconds there's mass whingeing on Twatter.

    1. juice Silver badge

      Re: 99.999% SLA

      > Why can't everyday users get it in their heads there's no such thing as 100% uptime? As soon as it goes down for 10 seconds there's mass whingeing on Twatter.

      In this case, it was effectively down for at least 12 hours, and on "mad friday" when people are doing lots of financial stuff, from getting an early xmas paycheck to buying presents and getting rounds of drinks in.

      Definitely a pain...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 99.999% SLA

        Various vendors used to be able to offer serious levels of resilience. Nowadays, not so much. Why should system designers/operators bother investing in resikience when there's no meaningful encouragement for proper design, and no visible penalty for rolling out broken systems prone to avoidable and repeated failures.

        On Friday afternoon (20th) my local town's handful of cash machines had all failed. The bank and building society branches mostly moved out long ago, and the nearest back is now a half hour round trip away.

        I happened to be in the Post Office (posting a package, since you asked). As people came home from work ready for the pub, they had no access to cash machines to get at the afternoon's beer/Prosecco/gin money.

        This Post Office has a counter cashback service when the shop is open. I'd never seen/heard anything quite like it e.g. "can I have four hundred pounds cashback" (similar amounts every few seconds). I thought maybe another RBS-style banking collapse was immintent, but no suich luck, this was a different kind of management failure in the bank boardrooms.

        ps

        don't even think about combining this picture with Post Office's Horizon accounts management system :(

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: 99.999% SLA

          "the nearest back is now a half hour round trip away."

          Apologies for the poor standard of my typing, in line with the community's policy of continuous pridoct and service improvement. I'm hoping for a marketing job soon.

  9. kmedcalf

    Still do not understand

    I still do not understand what it is that you folks over 'ome do with "Online Banking" that makes it a critical service. Personally, I would not give a spec of faeces if the Online Banking went down for a day or three, it matters not whatsoever. What did you lot used to do in the days before Online Banking? Also, you should read the Terms & Conditions of service. A failure to plan on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.

    1. Solviva

      Re: Still do not understand

      In the days of yore you'd likely pop down t your local branch, which today is a coffee shop or similar thus not offering the necessary banking services you are currently missing due to said outage.

    2. Alister Silver badge

      Re: Still do not understand

      I still do not understand what it is that you folks over 'ome do with "Online Banking" that makes it a critical service

      Online banking is now the ONLY way to do any bank related transactions that do not require a 30 mile round trip, since they have not only closed all the local branches, but also removed all the bank specific ATMs where you could manage your account.

      If I want to pay money in by cash or cheque, I still have to make that 30 mile journey for the privilege. And there's no point saying "change your bank" because the same is true for all the major banks.

      1. kmedcalf

        Re: Still do not understand

        So if you still have to do a 30 mile journey to pay money in by cash or cheque, then whatever is the good of "Online Banking"? You obviously cannot get money out via "Online Banking", so what is its use then, and why does it matter if it is not available for a time?

        "Online banking is now the ONLY way to do any bank related transactions that do not require a 30 mile round trip"

        Ok, so what are these transactions and why are they so critical that they need to be done "now", and could not have been done "yesterday" or "tomorrow"?

        1. juice Silver badge

          Re: Still do not understand

          > So if you still have to do a 30 mile journey to pay money in by cash or cheque, then whatever is the good of "Online Banking"? You obviously cannot get money out via "Online Banking", so what is its use then, and why does it matter if it is not available for a time?

          I believe at least some banks let you pay in a check by uploading a photograph, though I haven't tested this.

          > Ok, so what are these transactions and why are they so critical that they need to be done "now", and could not have been done "yesterday" or "tomorrow"?

          Personally I recently sold a car; the guy arrived on Sunday and did a direct bank transfer after inspecting the car. Far safer and easier for us both: he didn't have to carry a large wodge of cash - or visit the bank to withdraw it/spend several days maxing out his ATM limit - and I didn't have to worry about being palmed off with fake banknotes or a rubber cheque...

          And previously I've transferred money to friends and family at short notice for emergencies. E.g. emergency vet bills, or unexpected transport costs.

          The fact that you don't have a use for the ability to instantly transfer and/or verify payments at any time of day doesn't mean that other people don't find it useful and sometimes even lifesaving...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Still do not understand

            >"I believe at least some banks let you pay in a check by uploading a photograph,"

            I'm using Starling bank, at present they will take (endorsed) cheques sent to a freepost address but are developing a feature such that you just need to send a photo of the cheque using their mobile app.

            Getting cash - use the Cashback option at a retailer or post office.

            Paying in cash is harder, easier is to just spend it! however that is a problem for businesses taking a lot of cash payments - market traders perhaps. I think some banks have a deal with the post office to take cash - for a fee.

    3. juice Silver badge

      Re: Still do not understand

      > What did you lot used to do in the days before Online Banking? Also, you should read the Terms & Conditions of service. A failure to plan on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.

      Quite right. And who needs those newfangled automated teller machines? You should have known your exact spending plans months in advance and made the appropriate arrangements at your local banking branch.

      Between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday only. After queuing for hours.

      You might as well say that there's no need for the internet, telephones, those newfangled computers or even electronic calculators - after all, we can always fall back to pen and paper, and a brisk walk from London to Scotland to deliver a handwritten message never hurt anyone...

    4. katrinab Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: Still do not understand

      On Friday, pay salaries for about 500 people who are liable to get upset if they don't get paid. Fortunately, it went through OK.

      1. kmedcalf

        Re: Still do not understand

        And what does the availability of the "Web UI" have to do with the backend processing systems?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Still do not understand

        Never mind 500 people, HSBC UK staff payroll is processed overnight 19/20th of the month so UK IT staff would have a strong incentive to keep things going.

        Writes a retired IT guy from HSBC. Would never have happened in our day but HSBC found it expedient to replace many highly skilled and experienced UK IT workers with the cheapest they can find in lower cost economies on short-term contracts.

        Glad I got out with a good redundancy payment and immediate pension many years ago.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Still do not understand

      This is why all of us should have at least two bank accounts (with entirely separate banking groups), and at least one credit card as well, to provide multiple fallback options just in case. And, before you say it, one of my debit cards is Visa, and the other is MasterCard. This doesn't quite protect me from every single possible point of failure. but it's a whole lot better than just one card from one bank, and, due credit to the finance techies in general, it has been a robust enough solution for me that not all combinations of these have gone down at once.

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: Still do not understand

        Many people simply cannot do that. End of.

        You presumably have a good credit history, always pay your credit card bills on time and have a personal accountant spending a few hours every week updating your personal expenditure in a nice leather-bound double-entry ledger. (And the other things a tax accountant can do)

        Many, perhaps even most people don't have that privilege.

        Many people live payday to payday, on hourly wages (or even piecework) and before making any spending plans - such as buying the food for Christmas dinner - need to check that they really have been paid and how much they were paid.

        As if they don't, they might go into their overdraft and be effectively f**ked for the next decade.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Still do not understand

          Fair point, and I agree that some jobs are very tough, and that in some (too many) cases the odds are tipped in favour of exploitative employers rather than workers getting a fair deal.

          Although I have been lucky/skilled enough to be in steady employment for a while, I'm not rich, I certainly don't have an accountant (but am grateful for and have donated to the excellent GnuCash accounting software which does help me keep track of my bank accounts); like too many people in the UK, I can't afford to make the overpriced transition from renting to home ownership, it's not so long ago that I was mostly living paycheque to paycheque myself, and I have had periods of insecure jobs and a period of (depression related) unemployment myself. I do acknowledge that this might make me more "privileged" than some, but super-privileged I am not.

          I know that those whose finances are in a very bad shape might find it harder to open additional accounts, although the likes of Citizens Advice and MoneySavingExpert financial guidance can help, but, if you do have a steady job, even a fairly humble one, you don't have to be on a high salary to be able to open a second "spare" current account, and, for good or for ill, banks are still keen to offer credit cards to most of us (albeit perhaps with a lower credit limit, although that may be a good thing in itself), so the fallback options, when needed, are probably there for most of the working population (although I acknowledge, not all).

  10. low_resolution_foxxes

    Honestly, I'm not sure I've had a single problem with my HSBC mobile app in the years I've had it.

    Minor gripes perhaps when I broke my phone and had to reinstall the account with a new sim (time consuming, but straight forward) and the mobile cheque-cashing camera app can be s*** (it wants a photo of the back of the cheque, except it's usually blank, but the app doesn't like a plain white photo... Agh! Death to the UI testers on that one).

    1. low_resolution_foxxes

      Although, I have to say Revolut pisses all over any banking app I've used. Add in the fact it doesn't charge me any foreign exchange fees and I heart it (foreign purchases are consistently 4-8% cheaper in £ compared to my HSBC and Amex accounts).

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