Extreme Convenience

Digital banking outages crop up every now and then, some worse than others. In this era of 24-hour banking, are we as tolerant as we used to be?

I noticed in the news a few months ago that an internet banking platform was effectively down for over 24 hours. From a service operations perspective this is a major outage, and my first thought as a member of an operations team on hearing this was sympathy for the poor support guys trying to bring it back up again. Large companies can be particularly unforgiving, especially when money is involved. A service disruption of only a minute is enough to trigger a ‘priority one’ situation, so I can only imagine the pressure they were under. It was reminiscent of the NatWest computer crash in summer 2012, after which an eye-watering fine of £65 million was levied, hence the pressure is justified.

But then I thought, is 24 hours really that long? Digital banking technology only took off in earnest in the late 1990s, so twenty years ago it was pretty much impossible to do any kind of banking transaction outside business hours. Some branches opened on Saturdays but by no means all, meaning that 24-hour ‘downtime’ was a regular occurrence. Not to mention the 16 hour ‘rest’ period from 5pm until 9am on weekdays. During the recent ‘outage’, customers were still able to perform transactions by telephone and in branches so even in the supposed ‘down’ period there was a far higher level of service than on a Sunday in 1995!

People today have lost the ability to tolerate waiting. Everything, including banking, is now available 24 hours a day, even at Christmas. If you had told me in 1995 that one day 24 hours without being able to go to a bank would have been newsworthy I would have laughed.

How times have changed. I can still remember days when if I arrived at a bank after closing time, I would blame myself for arriving too late. Nowadays I can not only blame the bank, but the newspapers, pundits, government, regulators, and even the banks themselves will agree with me.

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