The RBS Group boss finally broke his silence to issue an apology to tens of thousands of Ulster Bank customers whose accounts are still malfunctioning.
Stephen Hester said he realised that “being sorry is not enough” after a computer meltdown began two weeks ago following a major IT glitch.
He was speaking amid mounting criticism over the banking group’s refusal to issue an adequate explanation for the ongoing problems — which look likely to drag into a fourth week.
Having already missed the date forecast to fix the problems three times, Ulster Bank has not committed itself to any new public deadlines.
“I want to apologise to our Ulster Bank customers for the significant inconvenience caused by these technology problems,” said Mr Hester.
“I recognise that being sorry is not enough; we believe we have fixed the initial problem and are now making inroads in catching up with the knock-on effects to our customers in Ulster Bank. We have been steadfast in supporting customers in Ulster Bank through the financial crisis, maintaining a full banking service as others have left the banking market.
“We will continue to meet our responsibilities and ensure we restore normal support to our customers.”
The bank has said that initial reviews have indicated that the problem originated during maintenance on systems which are managed and operated by a team in Edinburgh — causing an error in their batch scheduler.
“Consequently, a significant number of customer account balances did not update as they should have from Tuesday June 19.
“The exact cause of this issue will only be known once we have carried out a full investigation, which we will do as a matter of priority.”
The bank is urging customers affected by the backlog to continue calling its helpline.
More than 100,000 customers were left without proper access to their accounts when the problems arose last month — and were assured the backlog would be resolved within days.
The crisis hit fever pitch last weekend, however, when salaries were not paid into customer bank accounts, prompting frenzied scenes at branches across the province as people physically attempted to access their cash.
Northern Ireland’s 1,200 schools ended last Friday for the summer holidays, with many families now worried about travelling abroad with limited access to money.
Meanwhile, this Friday marks the beginning of two weeks’ leave for the construction industry over the Twelfth fortnight, potentially leaving builders and their families cash-strapped.
The Northern Ireland Consumer Council has urged management at the bank to establish and execute a plan which will resolve the situation quickly and efficiently for customers.
Since the start of the Ulster Bank debacle, Northern Bank said it has seen an upsurge in would-be new clients.
“It has been very busy as we continue to see a significant increase in the number of inquiries about opening accounts with us,” a spokesman said.
“Many customers have successfully gone through the process already. However, we are aware that a small number of consumers were told their application to switch accounts could not be progressed.
“In the current situation, some consumers do not have access to their most recent bank statement which resulted in them being told we could not process their application further at this stage.”