Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Editor's Viewpoint: Bank's handling of crisis a PR disaster

Banking is one industry which has been revolutionised by technology. Long gone are the days when every transaction required a trip to a local branch.

Now money can be moved around the world, bills paid and payments received without ever touching notes or coins. That is until the technology fails as happened with the Ulster Bank because of a glitch in the software of its parent company, Royal Bank of Scotland.

The result has been chaos with people not receiving benefits, able to access their money, withdraw funds from automated holes in the wall or do any of the things they normally do scarcely without thinking. The bad news is that it could be next Friday before the chaos is finally unravelled. The good news is that Ulster Bank has promised that no customer will be out of money as a result of the computer problems.

However, will the bank move to ensure that customers' credit ratings are not damaged because of late payment of things like mortgages or credit card loans? And while it is accepted that the problems were not of the Ulster Bank's own making, was the response fast enough and comprehensive enough. Why were bank branches opened yesterday from 10am to noon, forcing some customers to choose between God and mammon if they wanted their financial affairs sorted out.

Surely, given the gravity of the situation the bank should have opened branches all day on Saturday and Sunday to give every customer adequate time to access services. The whole episode is something of a public relations disaster for the bank. Already seen as a company burdened with huge debts through over-exposure to the property market before it crashed, it now has suffered another dent in its reputation, this time in its direct dealing with ordinary customers.

It will have to work hard to restore its own credit rating with customers and retain its share of the banking market in the province.

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