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NatWest opens early over glitch


Susan Allen

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Susan Allen from NatWest: “We’re working really hard to fix this”

Around 1,000 NatWest branches are to open at 08:00 BST to help customers unable to access their accounts because of a glitch.

A large number of NatWest customers, along with others with RBS and Ulster Bank accounts, have been unable to access online services.

Technical issues also meant that some balances were not updated with overnight payments.

RBS apologised and said customers would not be left out of pocket.

NatWest and Ulster Bank are part of the RBS group.

Some branches had stayed open late on Thursday to help customers on their way home and staff continued to work through the night.

In an update on its website, NatWest said many customers could now view their account balances online but not all of them.

“We recognise this has caused significant inconvenience for our customers and we continue to work to resolve these issues and restore a full service,” it said.

Earlier, the banking group confirmed that a number of business accounts had also been affected.

One small business owner told the BBC that the electronic system to pay staff was not working.

He said that, while the bank’s business service centre had put a note on his account to allow him access to emergency cash, there were no communications within the bank as staff in his branch had no record of it and the note was having to be faxed over.

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One customer’s story

A first-time buyer, his pregnant wife and their one-year-old child have been left in an empty home owing to the technical problems at NatWest.

Raul Poddy, 30, and his family were due to complete the purchase of their first home but, because solicitors cannot check that funds have been transferred, the keys have not been released.

Instead they face “throwing down a mattress” to spend the night in their empty, rented home in Durham until the problem is resolved.

“It is not good enough for this to happen in this day and age,” said Mr Poddy, whose wife Kerry is 20 weeks pregnant.

He said their belongings were in a removal van and were likely to have to be put into storage, at a cost, instead of being unloaded in their new home 10 miles away.

Meanwhile, their one-year-old was at nursery and set to return to a house where the gas and electricity had been cancelled.

“We were saving for a deposit for almost a year and spent so long getting every last detail perfect, then this happens,” he said.

Many customers have taken to Twitter reporting that they have not been paid and expressing fears that the problem would not be fixed before the weekend.

NatWest has 7.5 million personal banking customers.

The bank did not say how many people had been affected across the group, but Ulster Bank, which along with NatWest is also part of the RBS group, said 100,000 of its customers had been affected by “a major technical issue”.

“We are working hard to minimise the impact and will ensure that those who are affected do not suffer any financial loss,” Ulster Bank said in a statement.

Apology

Bob Spearman from Petworth told the BBC his weekly tax credit payment had not been paid into his NatWest account.

“We, like many other low-income families live from week to week and the Child Tax Credit weekly payment is a lifeline on which we rely,” he said.

Customers have also reported problems accessing their online accounts for the past 24 hours.

A message posted from the NatWest Help Twitter account said: “This is an unacceptable inconvenience for our customers for which we apologise.”

A spokeswoman for UK Payments Council, which oversees payments strategy, said that the problem did not appear to have affected any other banks.

However, people expecting payments from individuals or businesses which banked with NatWest could encounter problems.

Last week, Royal Bank of Scotland and NatWest launched a mobile banking app to enable people to withdraw money from cash machines using their smartphone.

This marked the latest development in a long-predicted move towards the smartphone becoming a digital wallet.

NatWest statement in full

“This is a technical problem affecting a large number of NatWest and Ulster Bank customers, and a small number of RBS customers, including some of our business customers.

“It was caused by a failure of our systems to properly update customers’ balances overnight. The main problem customers are having is that where people have had money go into their accounts overnight, there may be a delay in it showing up on their balance. This is an unacceptable inconvenience for our customers, for which we apologise.

“We can assure our customers that this problem is strictly of a technical nature and will be fixed as soon as possible. We can also confirm that no customers will be permanently out of pocket as a result of this.

“We will be keeping over 1,000 NatWest branches in all major towns and cities open until 7pm tonight to assist customers who are unable to get to their branch during working hours.”

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