Royal Bank of Scotland has encountered another setback in its efforts to draw a line under a series of scandals after the state-backed lender turned away thousands of savers seeking to access their cash.
About 4,500 RBS customers with inactive accounts were told mistakenly that the bank did not hold their funds. The bank is sending out letters of apology this month and City regulators have been informed.
The amounts involved were small — the typical balance was about £50, giving a total of £225,000 — compared with those in other episodes. RBS faces a multibillion-dollar bill to settle claims it misled investors in mortgage-backed securities in the US.
Yet, the dormant account glitch is another embarrassment for the lender as it tries to refocus on domestic retail and commercial banking. Ross McEwan, chief executive, is seeking to restore public confidence after misdeeds including payment protection insurance mis-selling.
It is also the latest IT-related problem at RBS, whose systems failed in the summer — leading to delays to 600,000 customer payments and direct debits.
On Sunday, RBS said it set up incorrect “filters” on computer software that was supposed to identify the holders of inactive accounts.
“We are very sorry that this happened and as soon as we discovered this we took steps to correct our error,” the bank said in a statement.
“We have apologised for the inconvenience caused and are making sure that we put this right.”
The customers had made a request through a national lost-account scheme that helps savers who want to trace savings that have been lying dormant.
It was set up by the British Bankers’ Association, the Building Societies Association and National Savings and Investments.
The Financial Conduct Authority would not comment on the mishap at RBS, which was first reported by the Sunday Times.
RBS added the affected customers should be able to reclaim their outstanding balance by visiting their local branch with ID.