HSBC says 'We caused Maestro system fault'

Upgrades to HSBC’s telephone banking system last weekend produced a fault that left thousands of the bank’s customers unable to make purchases or withdraw cash.

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Upgrades to HSBC’s telephone banking system last weekend produced a fault that left thousands of the bank’s customers unable to make purchases or withdraw cash.

The bank rolled out the upgrade at mid day on Saturday, which created an intermittent fault in the Maestro system. The upgrade was removed from the system at 2pm on Saturday, but it took a further four hours to bring the system fully back online, a bank spokesman told Computerworld UK.

Root cause analysis of the problem was not complete until midnight on Sunday, when HSBC were forced to admit the fault lay with their software upgrade, not with the Maestro system, which is owned by Mastercard.

The faulty software was written in house at HSBC and the bank is now conducting a major incident review. “We should have the results on Friday. We are examining what was wrong initial changes also why took so long to bring stems back to full capacity,” a bank spokesman said.

HSBC uses multiple channels – online, telephone and branch front ends linking into a common database for its customers, the bank said.

The bank runs its IT function globally with a remit to standardise systems wherever possible. Since 1996 it has cut its datacentre count from 120 to 22.

HSBC has said that its use use of standardised IT globally is continuing to contribute strongly to group profits, with its Whirl global credit card platform in particular enabling it to cut IT costs.

In July of last year the bank reported that its Whirl global credit card platform was servicing 86 million accounts across 16 countries, which had allowed HSBC to “improve services for our card customers and to cut our IT costs per account by 16%.”

The bank also said it was introducing a new personal and business internet platform across the group, which was allowing it to launch new services, including direct banking.

In 2006 HSBC said it had set its global IT function an annual target of cutting 10% from per-transaction operating costs across its global banking operations.

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