Invest now, pay later message for UK banks

Many customers of Lloyds, TSB and HBOS were unable to use their debit cards last weekend when a major IT glitch hit Lloyds Banking Group. It is the latest in a series of retail banking disasters with Natwest suffering DDoS in early December and RBS suffering downtime just before Christmas with online and card payments. The latest episode was blamed by Lloyds on one or two servers falling over. The plausibility of this is questioned by many in the financial services and IT industries. Banks have multiple layers of equipment redundancy, and failover and architecture and processes are designed to prevent single points of failure. The reality may be that failover systems are not tested as much as necessary or refreshed for years because it is not required that often. There is a clear conflict between consumer demand for 100% uptime and banks offering digital services across the internet and smartphones, underpinned by an over reliance on obsolete legacy IT. Sam Woods, director of the Bank of England’s Prudential Regulation Authority, previously told a government enquiry on Irish banks that banking systems were “far from robust” and required core change and massive investment. Whilst bank mergers and splits may create complicated infrastructures, consumer demand for 100% uptime of digital services, added to the new 7 day ruling for swopping customer accounts, may be the commercial prompt forcing banks into fundamental action, with major inhouse investment and/or skilling up by outsourcing services to qualified third party MSPs with ISO27001 and being PCI DSS compliant. The alternative is to lose customer confidence and see money walking out of the door.

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