Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Fault will not hit credit ratings: chief

Ulster Bank boss tries to calm fears over IT meltdown

The boss of Ulster Bank has claimed customer credit ratings won't be impacted by any delay to payments caused by the bank's ongoing IT problems.

In Belfast yesterday in an attempt to calm the disruption caused by the transaction backlog, chief executive Jim Brown told the Belfast Telegraph that credit ratings agencies have agreed to work with the bank to iron out any downgrades caused by the bank's issues once the system is up and running again.

But Ulster Bank said the ratings agencies hadn't guaranteed they would rectify the credit ratings of any affected customers.

"We'll be liaising with credit agencies on that," he said.

The CEO, who took over at the top of RBS-owned Ulster Bank in March, said that in the meantime, he was focusing on clearing the backlog of transactions which started building on June 20 and was hopeful the payment system would be back to normal "early next week".

He wouldn't be drawn on whether there would be any resignations as a result of the problems but said he would focus on the problem in hand.

"The issue is clearing the backlog and getting transactions up to date," he said.

He said 100,000 of Ulster Bank's 1.9m customers across the island of Ireland have been affected by the delay in completing transactions.

The bank couldn't give a separate figure for Northern Ireland, where it has 600,000 customers, but on a proportionate basis it would equate to around 32,000 account holders here.

Mr Brown also wouldn't be drawn on why the backlog of payments at Ulster Bank has taken so long to process when 99% of those at the other RBS and RBS-owned Nat West have already been processed.

"It's still an issue across all three brands," he said, maintaining that because the glitch impacted the other two parts of the group first, their transaction backlog would be cleared first.

Mr Brown also said the bank would reimburse any customer hit by charges as a result of the glitch.

Profile

Jim Brown has worked in the financial services industry for over 30 years. Before becoming all-Ireland chief executive of Ulster Bank in March of this year, he was responsible for the day-to-day management of the 7,000 employees in the retail and commercial business of Ulster Bank's parent RBS across Asia and the Middle East. The native New Zealander spent his career working across Asia and the Pacific.

Hester 'needs to be here'

By Clare Weir

The top man at Royal Bank of Scotland has been urged to come to Belfast to explain to customers why they are still without cash over a week since the Ulster Bank technological meltdown began.

John Wright, a former chief executive of Oman International Bank, Northern and National Irish Banks as well as the Clydesdale and Yorkshire Banks in England before he retired, made the call to Stephen Hester.

"Clearly the PR strategy has not worked.

"I don't think this is as a result of cutbacks or outsourcing, I suspect it is simple incompetence.

"When anyone does 'fixes' for software, they do it 'off line' they do not do on the 'live system'.

"It seems to me to me to be a failure of risk management or business contingency planning. Where was the 'back up' system?

"I wonder why Stephen Hester hasn't shown up in Belfast, even the Queen managed to make it this week."

Carl Whyte, partner at MW Advocate public relations said that the banking crisis had been compounded by a public relations crisis.

"The most important rule in handling a PR crisis is 'explain, explain, explain'," he said.

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