Tech

Nationwide building society falls victim to IT outage

Nationwide building society is recovering from an IT outage that caused significant difficulties for customers over a period of several hours, with account holders reporting problems making purchases and sending and receiving payments, including making mortgage payments and receiving salaries.

The organisation, which on Thursday 21 March confirmed it had reached a formal agreement to acquire Virgin Money in a £2.9bn deal, first reported the outage via social media platform X, formerly Twitter, just before 10am BST on Friday 22 March.

“We’re sorry, payments to and from other building societies and banks are delayed at the moment. We’re working to fix this as soon as possible. Please don’t resend [or] duplicate your payment. Internal transfers and your cards are working normally,” it said.

Services were quickly restored, and in a further update shortly before midday, Nationwide issued an additional statement.

“Following a fault earlier this morning, payments are now flowing again and any queued payments will be processed over the next few hours. You don’t need to resend your payment. We are very sorry for any inconvenience caused,” it said.

Customers replying to its posts were less than impressed, with many lamenting a lack of updates and others threatening to take their business elsewhere, while some questioned the logic of Nationwide making a multibillion-pound acquisition if it can’t keep its IT running.

At the time of writing, Computer Weekly understands that some incoming and outgoing payments are still delayed owing to the fault, and that all queued payments should be processed in the next few hours.

Customers who have sent money or are waiting for it to arrive do not need to take any additional action at this time, and direct debits and standing orders are flowing as normal. Customers can also continue to move their money between accounts, use their cards online and in shops, and use Nationwide’s online services and ATMs.

Nationwide’s outage is thought to have been caused by overnight maintenance having taken longer than expected, causing parts of its network to be down right as the working day was beginning.

The building society is the latest in a string of prominent high street names to experience IT issues. In the space of just a week, outages have struck across the UK, forcing fast food chains McDonald’s and Greggs to close outlets, and causing problems for customers of supermarkets Sainsburys and Tesco, which were left unable to fulfil online shopping orders.

Although there is no suggestion of any link between them, many of these outages appear to share similar causes, having occurred after system upgrades or updates ran into problems. None of them have been attributed to malicious cyber activity.

Speaking in the wake of the Greggs outage that deprived thousands of their sausage roll fix, Louisa Chambers, a partner in the technology and commercial transactions department at law firm Travers Smith, said that the litany of problems showed clearly how dependent the UK is on the IT that underpins the retail sector.

“Retailers place their trust in the providers of these services and it is critical they ensure that contracts for the supply of these services are robust, contain strong service level commitments and have meaningful consequences if those are not met,” she said. “The contracts then have to be properly policed to make sure businesses and consumers are not continually let down.”

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