In an effort to ensure that such a catastrophic system failure can never happen again, the Central Bank and the Irish Payment Service Organisation (IPSO) are to conduct an industry-wide risk review.
A Central Bank spokesperson said: “In response to the Ulster Bank incident, the Central Bank has formally requested sign-off from all clearing banks that contingency plans are fully updated with regular testing.
“The Central Bank, in conjunction with IPSO, will conduct a review of the industry risk assessment process to further mitigate underlying risks.”
The request to review all systems and contingencies came as a second Irish bank suffered technical problems. National Irish Bank customers could not access the bank’s online banking service and some ATM withdrawals were affected after its parent bank, Danske Bank, had a technical problem.
A spokesperson said: “National Irish Bank can confirm it experienced a technical issue yesterday morning on its systems. The cause of the problem was promptly identified and back-up systems were immediately put in place.
“In total, between identification of the issue and a complete recovery of the system, the technical issue would have been of less than three hours’ duration, but there was intermittent service during that period across the bank’s services.”
According to UCD Smurfit School of Business expert Eamonn Walsh, the crisis was a disaster waiting to happen.
“To be honest, I think many people are surprised that such a thing [the IT failure] did not happen before. As one very eminent software engineer described it, these are essentially systems that are glued together by hope,” the professor told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.
“In any other industry if something went wrong with your competitor, you would be saying come to us, we don’t have those problems.
“What I think is interesting is there’s quite an eerie silence over the past week from competitors who could be taking advantage [of the Ulster Bank crisis].”
At a robust meeting with senior executives yesterday, the Central Bank also demanded that Ulster do everything in its power to support customers during the service outage.
The meeting has resulted in Ulster taking the unprecedented step of allowing customers to withdraw money on credit cards — interest free.
An Ulster spokesperson said: “We are facilitating our customers who may have experienced delays in receiving salary or social welfare benefits on the production of pay slips and identification. Customers who are unable to get to a branch or an ATM should contact us on 1800 205100. We are also facilitating customers to take cash out on credit cards, interest free.
“We confirm that no customer will be out of pocket as a result of this issue. We are also working with the credit reference agencies to ensure that customers’ credit ratings are not impacted.”