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Ulster Bank crisis: How did it happen? When will it be fixed?

Question: What caused the bank computer failure in the first place?

Answer: The Royal Bank of Scotland said that a problem was created when maintenance on internal systems, managed and operated by staff in Edinburgh, caused an error. This error caused the automated processing to fail on June 19 and prompted a build-up of processing delays that forced staff to intervene manually. They were unable to access the record of transactions that had been processed up to the point of failure. The efforts to find out at what point processing had stopped delayed subsequent processing and created a backlog. As a result a significant number of customer account balances did not update as they should have from June 19.

Question: What progress has been made in resuming a full banking service?

Answer: The bank says the backlog had to be cleared before it could begin to return the systems to normal. To restore a normal service, the outstanding batches of processed payments across the RBS group had to be recovered in sequence. The bank said the issue had to be resolved in NatWest and RBS before Ulster Bank because of the way the technology was set up when the three banks were integrated. RBS said it regretted any confusion this might have caused.

Question: When will customers of Ulster Bank see their service return to normal?

Answer: Staff are now working to catch up on the backlog of outstanding payments. The bank maintains that its customers should see their account balances updating during this week. Ulster Bank said a resumption of normal service will take some additional time as experience from dealing with the same issues in RBS and NatWest suggests that there may be “bumps along the road”. RBS chairman Sir Philip Hampton on Monday night said that it hoped to “break the back” of the problems “as we go through next week”.

Question: How can Ulster Bank customers keep abreast of developments?

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Answer: The bank said it will issue a media update every day on its websites, via twitter @UlsterBankGroup, in call centres and branches.

Question: Will customers be entitled to compensation following the debacle?

Answer: Sir Philip said that the main focus was on “getting this IT mess sorted out”. He also said that Ulster Bank was committed to ensuring that no-one would be left permanently out of pocket as a result of the computer failures. Any customers affected should contact the bank.

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