Santander computer bug locks customers out of online banking

Thanks to a computer system error at Santander, Alliance & Leicester banking customers have been locked out of their online banking systems.

The Spain-based bank, which acquired the A&L branches in 2008 July, was in the midst of the integration process last weekend when the issue occurred.  During an upgrade of 5 million A&L customer accounts to the same system the bank utilises for its other two newly acquired UK banks, Bradford & Bingley and Abbey, an unknown number of accounts have lost the ability to check their bank statements online.

Santander had planned to change the branding of its newly acquired A&L branches – all 270 of them – but before the new flaming red logo can go up on the wall, it needs to transition all of their new new customers to the Santander computer banking system, called Partenon.

The Spanish bank completed its rebranding of the Bradford & Bingley and Abbey National branches it purchased this past January, and customers from those banks are fully integrated into Santander’s systems, allowing them full access to their accounts at any Santander-owned bank.  Additionally, customers with accounts at A&L will have similar access once the transition to Partenon is completed successfully.

According to Santander, the online lockout is only affecting a limited number of A&L’s 5 million customers; however there were no indications given regarding when those customers would regain access.  The damage to the online banking system seems to have been done the previous weekend, though Santander has been giving customers information that points towards a possible fix by the end of this week.

The timing of this online banking system breakdown is an embarrassment for Santander; last week the bank finalised its plans to purchase 318 RBS branches, an action that will increase its small business bank account market share in the UK to 8 per cent, up from its current figure of 3 per cent.  Santander will possess a network in excess of 1,600 branches once the deal goes through in 2011.

A spokesman for the Spanish bank commented that courts had approved to the A&L business acquisition of May the 28th of this year, and since then Santander has been implementing over 5 million account migrations in phases.

The majority of A&L customers have been upgraded to Santander’s banking systems with no trouble at all, the spokesman continued, stating that Santander’s expectation is to have A&L’s transition and rebranding  completed by December 2010 despite the small percentage of individual accounts temporarily locked out from their online banking system.

The bank’s spokesman concluded by apologising inconveniencing its customers, assuring them that they were hard at work on a timely fix.

Concerned A&L customers with questions regarding their online banking status can get more information through visiting either the Santander or Alliance & Leicester websites. Additionally they can ring Santander directly at 0844 800 1144.

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