No wonder TSB customers want Paul Pester’s head to roll.
The bank’s top boss had two key responsibilities ahead of its enormous IT upgrade last weekend: first to make sure customers could get on with their day-to-day lives without interruption, and secondly to keep them in the loop if, heaven forbid, it went south.
On both fronts, TSB has failed miserably. Despite three years of planning, it has been a disaster.
Thin ice: TSB customers are furious at the bank’s IT disaster and want to see boss Paul Pester handed his marching orders
TSB’s computer problems can be traced back to a simple mistake: rushing the big upgrade. As a whistleblower in the IT department of its Spanish parent company, Banco Sabadell, told us yesterday, nobody on the ground was ready when Mr Pester fired his starting pistol.
Even so, the resulting meltdown could, in time, have been forgotten if TSB had offered clear and helpful answers to furious customers hit by the problems.
Failing to do so is its gravest error. Mr Pester said nothing for 48 hours before posting on Twitter that he had finally ‘resurfaced’. Wherever he was (we await a clear answer . . .), chaos reigned while he was away.
Customers were unable to get through to the TSB call centre on the phone, faced long queues in branches and were given scant information about what was going on. Had a criminal got hold of their account details?
No answer from TSB. When would they be able to pay bills and check balances? TSB couldn’t say.
It’s left those affected asking: why bother with this upgrade at all? Mr Pester’s theory was that switching to Sabadell’s software would enable TSB to give customers new deals and digital tools.
But the Spanish banking system is nothing like ours in Britain. In Spain, fewer people have loans, credit cards and savings accounts at their bank. Many treat their current account as a purely transactional, everyday service, much like they do in the U.S.
Only now, thanks to Money Mail’s intrepid reporters, are customers learning that some TSB services may be down for weeks.
TSB has made a song and dance about being ‘different’ from firms such as Santander, NatWest and HSBC (who’ve also had IT blips).
It has claimed to stay true to its roots as a community bank, founded by the Reverend Henry Duncan in 1810 to help workers in Dumfriesshire, Scotland, manage their wages, and Money Mail had hoped it might finally offer a genuine alternative to the shoddy treatment customers get at its rivals. Mr Pester, you’ve let everyone down.
It’s one thing to offer a £50 voucher to households who install a smart energy meter, but it’s another to charge customers more if they exercise their right to refuse the new devices.
Many Money Mail readers have legitimate reasons for saying no. For example, some say they’re worried about privacy, or cite the safety risks of linking their gas to an electrical unit. Others hate the thought that energy firms can cut off their supply remotely with the flick of a switch.
Many of those resisting the change are older and uncomfortable with new fiddly technology.
By withholding cheap energy tariffs from these customers, suppliers are guilty of discrimination. And, once again, it’s the elderly who are paying the price. The bullying really has to stop.
Last week, I asked for suggestions to help the elderly get a better deal from financial firms.
One plea cropped up time and again: allow the over-65s to cash in their annuities.
Hundreds of thousands of savers are getting just a few pounds a month from these deals, which, until the rules changed in 2015, were practically the only way you could access personal pensions.
Many would prefer a lump sum. And even though the law allows you to cash in annuity pots worth up to £10,000, just one firm, Phoenix Life, is playing ball (its offer is limited to 20,000 savers who’ll get no more than £2,000 each).
Money Mail has campaigned for two years to convince other insurers to act fairly, but firms say they fear they’ll be hit by mis-selling claims from customers who later regret cashing in vital income.
Our crusade is proving a tough slog, but rest assured we are still battling hard to ensure justice prevails. Watch this space.