Committee Calls Bank to Account on Systems Failure

Session: 2011/2012

Date: 06 July 2012

Reference: ETI 09/11/12

The Assembly Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment questioned the Ulster Bank yesterday on its systems failure and the on-going problems resulting from the backlog in transactions which has left thousands of small businesses and individuals without access to their bank accounts.

The Committee requested that Bank officials give a full account of current issues, on how they intend to compensate those affected and pressed Jim Brown, Chief Executive of Ulster Bank Group to provide a detailed timetable for the restoration of normal service.

Also attending the Committee meeting were members of the Assembly’s Finance and Personnel Committee which shares responsibility for promoting local economic activity.

Deputy Chairperson of the Committee, Phil Flanagan MLA said: “As Assembly members we are outraged that the problems affecting local people have gone on for such an extended period of time. It is incomprehensible that the Bank has not made more information available to its customers, leaving them effectively in a limbo situation.  It is also perplexing that this situation has gone on for almost three weeks and looks likely to continue for up to another two weeks.  

 “The hardship that the Ulster Bank has created for local people is incalculable. Many people are now finding it very difficult to pay their bills and they simply cannot afford to have this situation continue.  The Ulster Bank must do more to help people access their money.

Mr Flanagan added: “As a Committee with a huge interest in promoting local businesses, we are particularly concerned that this bank failure is harming our small and medium sized businesses as they try to pay their suppliers and staff and to receive payments for goods supplied.  The Committee is very concerned that many small businesses which are already struggling in this economic climate could be pushed into real financial difficulties.

“We will be looking to the Ulster Bank to compensate both individuals and businesses and to provide assurances that the necessary mechanisms and procedures are put in place to ensure this situation is not allowed to arise again.  

“The Ulster Bank also has a responsibility to its employees.  Ulster Bank staff have worked tirelessly putting in long hours and working over weekends throughout this crisis. Their efforts, hard work and attitude are to be commended.  The Bank now has a responsibility to recover its reputation and work to retain customers in order to help secure the jobs of these staff.”

Also giving evidence about the impact of the Ulster Bank’s systems failure were representatives from the Northern Ireland Consumer Council who spoke to the Committee about the calls they have been taking on this matter.

The Committee will be asking the Institute of Directors, the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association and the Federation of Small Businesses to monitor the fallout this situation has caused to the local business community and will be asking these organisations to report back to the Committee in September 2012.


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