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UK banks 'must deal with IT issues'

29/01/14

British banks have been hit with a number of IT and technology issues over the last year, with the most high-profile leading to customers being locked out of their accounts at some of the busiest times of the year, much to their chagrin.

On so-called Cyber Monday, the biggest shopping day of 2013, RBS was faced with a systems outage that left more than one million people unable to access their cash; in 2012, a similar problem at the same bank affected 17 million people and ended up costing the organisation some £175 million in compensation.

Writing for City AM, professor of information management at Cass Business School Feng Li warned that this problem could end up costing financial services firms a great deal if they do not get their house in order.

"Catastrophic IT failures in personal and commercial banking can lead to financial chaos and, if not recovered quickly, may even lead to social breakdown," he warned.

As transaction volumes continue to increase and internet shopping makes it more important that consumers can access their accounts remotely, banks are under increasing pressure to avoid IT collapses of the kinds seen in 2013 and 2012.

According to Mr Li, the problem is linked to UK banking's IT legacy system, which refers to the software applications, operating systems and other infrastructure devices developed before the 1990s.

"Despite significant annual IT investment (ranging from hundreds of millions to billions of pounds), almost 80 per cent of investment is targeted at maintaining and improving the existing core applications base," he explained.

He suggested that banking executives across the UK need to get together and discuss the best way to progress with IT development, with clear advances needed in the current infrastructure if further damaging crises are to be averted.

The alternative would be to bury our heads in the sand and passively wait for the system to degenerate even further, concluded the expert.

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