HSBC Customers Hit By Mainframe Failure

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

HSBC customers were unable to use ATM cash machines, as well as online banking this Friday, after the bank suffered an outage with its mainframe computer

Customers of HSBC were unable to access online banking facility or use ATM cash machines on Friday, after the bank confirmed it had suffered a problem with its mainframe computer.

“We experienced a mainframe outage at 11.45am this morning,” an HSBC spokesman told eWEEK Europe. “This impacted our ATM network and Internet banking, as well as credit and debt cards.”

“This outage lasted for two hours and the network is now fully back up and running,” the spokesman added. “We would obviously like to apologise to our customers for any inconvenience this caused.”

Failures of this nature are rare as mainframes are normally robust machines with a high degree of fault tolerance, which makes this two hour failure so surprising. When asked about the nature the mainframe failure, the spokesman was unable to identify the exact problem, although he did confirm the mainframe in question is from IBM.

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“We are monitoring the system and are examining the reason why it went wrong in the first place,” said the spokesman. “But we cannot say, at this stage, what the problem was. Our main priority was to get the system back up and running and stablised.”

The spokesman confirmed that HSBC is in the process of upgrading its systems but ruled this out as a reason for the failure.

“Upgrading carries on all year round, but this is not being linked to the failure today,” the spokesman said. “An interesting point is that some customers were able to conduct Internet banking during the downtime, while others couldn’t. We are investigating why this happened.”

The use of mainframes is pretty common-place in banking and financial circles, and indeed despite many predictions of the demise of ‘big iron’, mainframes continue to thrive.

That said, some IT departments are increasing concerned about the lack of in-house talent they have to deal with mainframes, after a survey last year from CA found that more than 80 percent of UK respondents were worried about mainframe skills in their company. That compared to around 66 percent for the rest of Europe.