Natwest has shed 30,000 jobs since taxpayer rescue in 2007, including 20,000 UK positions, and has outsourced work overseas
Insiders say many of the bank's support teams are now based in India, where they earn between £9,000 and £11,000 a year
Bank staff union Unite questions whether 'off-shoring' job cuts have left Natwest unable to cope with the current crisis
RBS denies that the outsourcing of staff has had an impact on its ability to cope with the unfolding transaction processing crisis
The flawed computer programme that led to a week of chaos for millions of RBS customers was being supervised by an IT support team in India, it was revealed last night.
Last February, RBS advertised for a series of key jobs, paying between £9,000 and £11,000 a year, in the Indian city of Hyderabad. That is way below what an equivalent worker would be paid in Britain.
The banking giant was urgently seeking computer graduates with several years' experience of using CA-7, the programme which the bank uses to run its vast network of transactions and accounts.
The job advertisement said: ‘Looking for candidates having 4-7 years of experience in Batch Administration using CA-7 tool. Urgent requirement by RBS.’
But last night technology website The Register claimed that this software needed to be updated and overseen from India by staff who are employed to work around the clock to solve any faults.
But the fiasco has brought calls for the bank's bosses to be subject to a 'detailed investigation' from Bank of England governor Sir Mervyn King said today.
He said there need to be answers as to what went wrong and why it has taken so long to sort the issues out.
His comments came as Royal Bank of Scotland said it was finally getting on top of the crisis after it successfully updated all but 1 per cent of NatWest and RBS account balances overnight.
RBS Group has had less success sorting out the delays experienced by Ulster Bank customers, but it hopes to restore a full service for the start of next week.
RBS has been swift to deny that its controversial job out-sourcing programme has been responsible for the fiasco.
It merely says that the ‘software error occurred on a UK-based piece of software’ but has declined to say where the staff overseeing the software are based.
It is a fact that the vast computer servers are based in Britain. But insiders confirmed last night that many of their support team are based in India.
Since being rescued by the taxpayer RBS has shed about 30,000 jobs, including more than 20,000 UK-based roles, and has outsourced work abroad.
Some of its IT support teams are now said to be based in India, even though the under-fire banking group’s headquarters remain in Edinburgh.
The Unite union questioned whether the ‘off-shoring’ job cuts had left the bank unable to cope after the software failure.
Last night insiders said problems began on Tuesday night when CA-7 was updated. On a normal evening, this should allow all the cashpoint withdrawals, salary transfers and direct debits to be updated.
The nightly update is the reason why internet banking transactions made by so many customers are not updated if they are made after a certain time of the day.
But what appears to have happened is that crucial files were deleted. The error was spotted but – incredibly – was repeated on Wednesday and again on Thursday.
It was only on Friday morning that staff realised the full scale of the crisis. Urgent calls to India followed and troubleshooters were drafted in.
The problem was that every single transaction that was waiting in the queue had to be reprocessed in strict order of arrival, causing further delays over last weekend.
RBS has consistently denied that the decision to relocate jobs to India has made any difference to its handling of the situation.
But critics said that if the number of UK-based support staff had been run down, it would always run the risk of problems if there was a major fault.
Last night Computer Associates, which owns CA-7, declined to comment on what had caused the problem.
The fiasco is believed to be the longest and most widespread problem of its kind since the advent of computer banking.
Which? said it raised questions about how robust systems were at other banks. Britain’s major banks have all faced criticism that they are reliant on constantly grafting software updates on to their complex computer systems rather than replacing the systems themselves.
David Bannister, the editor of Banking Technology magazine, told Channel 4 News: ‘What should have been a minor glitch has led to a pretty disastrous cock-up.’
He questioned why a back-up system did not appear to have been in place to protect the bank against a software failure.
The executive directly responsible for the bank’s IT systems is chief administrative officer Ron Teerlink. His pay and bonus are not disclosed because he does not sit on the main board, but he is understood to receive a six-figure package.