RBS blames IT failures on "decades" of underinvestment

The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) Group's CEO has admitted "decades" of underinvestment in its IT systems, after a system glitch left millions of customers unable to pay for goods on Monday evening.

The problems meant customers could not withdraw cash and make debit card payments from around 6pm on what was reportedly one of the busiest online shopping days of 2013

Its online banking services were also unusable during this time.

The banking group, which owns the Natwest and Ulster Bank brands, issued a statement yesterday confirming the problems had been resolved.

"The systems issues that affected our customers last night have now been resolved and all our services are now back working normally," the statement read.

"We would like to apologise to our customers. If anyone has been left out of pocket as a result of these systems problems, we will put this right."

However, in a follow-up statement, RBS Group CEO Ross McEwan assured customers the banking giant is ploughing money into new IT systems after years of underinvestment.

"For decades, RBS failed to invest properly in its systems. We need to put our customers' needs at the centre of all we do. It will take time, but we are investing heavily in building IT systems our customers can rely on," he said.

"I'm sorry for the inconvenience we caused our customers. We know we have to do better. I will be outlining plans in the new year for making RBS the bank that our customers and the UK need it to be. This will include an outline of where we intend to invest for the future," he added.

In the wake of Monday's problems, many of the banking group's customers were still reporting problems on social networking site Twitter the following day.

How RBS can say things are back to normal I don't know - they clearly aren't! #RBSchaosDee Harrison (@philobiz) December 3, 2013

The banking group's official Twitter account (@RBS_Help) said some of the ongoing problems could be caused by the surge in demand for its online banking services, in the wake of last night's problems.

In some instances, users are reporting incorrect balances, and the firm is advising that it may take a few hours to update them.

Any customer experiencing issues this morning should get in touch with our call centres or branches where our staff will be ready to help.RBS Help (@RBS_Help) December 3, 2013

System problems are becoming an increasingly common occurrence for firms in the financial sector, as banks continue to digitise their services and push users to do more online banking.

RBS is no stranger to IT problems as a technical glitch in March 2013 prevented customers from withdrawing cash or making online payments for several hours.

Furthermore, a botched software update in the summer of 2012 caused overnight transfers for millions of the firm's customers to fail, resulting in missed rent, mortgage, and salary payments for some.

The incident was so bad the Financial Conduct Authority launched an investigation into the cause of it in April 2013.

This article was originally published on Tuesday 3 December, and updated today to reflect MP responses to latest IT glitches.

Caroline Donnelly is the news and analysis editor of IT Pro and its sister site Cloud Pro, and covers general news, as well as the storage, security, public sector, cloud and Microsoft beats. Caroline has been a member of the IT Pro/Cloud Pro team since March 2012, and has previously worked as a reporter at several B2B publications, including UK channel magazine CRN, and as features writer for local weekly newspaper, The Slough and Windsor Observer. She studied Medical Biochemistry at the University of Leicester and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism at PMA Training in 2006.