June 27, 2014 4:28 pm

RBS and NatWest plan £1bn-plus digital upgrade

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©Bloomberg

Royal Bank of Scotland and NatWest will spend more than £1bn on improving banking services over the next three years, after a series of high-profile IT blunders left millions of customers unable to access their money.

RBS said on Friday that the investment is designed to enhance its digital offering to help individuals and small businesses “bank on the move”. It says their usage of online and mobile technology to manage money has increased 200 per cent over the past three years.

The £1bn package is being implemented after a major IT glitch on the busiest Christmas shopping day in December, known as “Cyber Monday”, which resulted in customers of RBS and its subsidiaries NatWest and Ulster being unable to use credit and debit cards for three hours.

But the IT failure was the bank’s fourth in two years. In 2012, RBS, 81 per cent owned by taxpayers, suffered a huge computer systems breakdown that loaded the bank with a backlog of transactions for three weeks.

Les Matheson, RBS’ chief executive of personal and business banking said he needed to make changes to the way the bank did business so that its customers did more business with it.

“A bank that customers feel they can trust is a bank they look to when they need to make bigger financial decisions, like when they buy their first home or want to start a business,” said Mr Matheson.

Philip Hampton, RBS chairman, told investors at the bank’s annual meeting on Wednesday that branch transactions had fallen 30 per cent over the past three years while online and mobile transactions had risen by 230 per cent.

The bank, which has about 1,900 branches, announced the closure of 44 branches in April and said it was inevitable that more would close.

RBS said the technology upgrades, implemented between now and 2017, will enable customers to view and amend regular payments on mobile without having to use online banking.

The £1bn investment will also be used to combine the existing personal and small business banking applications for mobile phones, so customers can more easily access both accounts.

More than 400 branches will be upgraded across the UK with new technology, including iPads for accessing online banking, as well as free WiFi for customers on their own devices in branches.

The new technology will enable staff to see all the interactions a customer has with the bank, to “better know and advise them”.

As well as the online enhancements, around 100 new ATM locations will be launched across the UK, along with 600 more cash and deposit machines.

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