This Ulster Bank debacle is a weird turn of events, isn’t it? The one remaining bank we thought we could rely on decides to run a software upgrade and promptly goes feral, refusing to credit people their money, but still taking the mortgage payments out of their accounts.
Now look. I know what they’ve been saying. This is a glitch. Shit happens. Sorry about that. We’ll probably have everything working fine Friday week, maybe, possible, perhaps.
Ulster Bank, like every other organisation in the world, has systems running on ancient code and from time to time, they need to fix a bit of that code because they found out it doesn’t do something properly. That something might be very trivial, like not putting your initials in capitals, ot it might be more serious, like sending all your money to a central African dictator by mistake. One way or another, it needs to be fixed.
This is not unusual. Any computer program has ragged edges, because when programs get that complex, nobody can say precisely what they’ll do in every conceivable situation. It’s just not possible. That’s why big companies are always poking and prodding at their systems, fixing problems as they crop up. Programs that evolve over decades are going to get flaky from time to time and that’s just reality.
In this case, however, it seems that Royal Bank of Scotland, the owners of Ulster Bank, decided to add a minor patch, but somebody screwed up monumentally, and when they installed the additional code, it made complete shite of their system.
Good. Take that, geeks. This is the end of drawling, condescending knobheads trying to make me feel like an idiot. Go back to your pizzas, your World of Warcraft and your Slayer collection. We now know that you can screw up just like everyone else. Everywhere you go these days, some tool who speaks only Unix is trying to make you feel like an idiot for asking a perfectly reasonable question, or at least what would be perfectly reasonable to anyone except a guy with no life outside first-person shoot-em-ups.
At the same time, RBS needs to be looking hard at itself. Did it have no Plan B? Did it simply fail to understand that a software collapse could be catastrophic? When the textbooks are rewritten, I think this will be presented as an example of how not to recover from a disaster. I’m no management twonk, but even I know that a basic principle when you completely screw your customers is to come out with your hands up, apologise, explain how you plan to fix the problem and promise never to do it again.
Have RBS or Ulster Bank done this?
No. They didn’t write to their customers. They didn’t email them. They didn’t phone them. They lied about the extent of the trouble. They made a feeble effort to help by opening a small number of their branches for a few extra hours. They set unachievable targets for fixing the problem — targets they won’t be able to meet.
Ulster Bank and their owners RBS, have been a classic example of corporate arrogance, and I think they’ll pay the price as thousands of customers close their accounts in coming weeks and move their money to banks that have operated properly.
I think everybody should move their accounts to, eh, AIB, or eh, Bank of Ireland, or eh, TSB, or …
Ah fuck it, leave your money in Ulster. They might say No, but they won’t say No Hope.