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Problems at Abbey due to core systems upgrade

Chris Skinner Author Avatar

I mentioned the other day that Middle Eastern banks were upgrading core systems
in six months whilst, in the UK, the last major upgrade I've been aware
of is that of the retail bank, Abbey.  Abbey are changing core systems
to implement those consistent with their Spanish owners, Grupo
Santander, who bought Abbey in 2004.

Now there's a whole variety
of research out there on customer satisfaction with UK banks, and most
are showing Abbey performing poorly.  For example, Which? magazine reported last August that Abbey were rated poorly for
customer satisfaction.  No wonder when you get bloggers writing reports
with headlines such as "Sparky vs Abbey" and "Abbey: How I Hate Thee".

Funnily enough, in conversation with various folks this week, I've
heard that if you bring together most of the league tables of
benchmarks for customer satisfaction with UK retail banks, then you'd
get something along the lines of the following:

  1. First Direct *
  2. Co-operative Financial Services
  3. Nationwide Building Society
  4. NatWest
  5. Lloyds TSB
  6. HSBC
  7. Barclays
  8. HBOS
  9. Abbey

with Abbey consistently performing badly.  In fact, according to this BBC survey, 60% of their customers are fed up. 

Now this surprised me, as Abbey is expanding branches and have been fairly innovative with products such as the five times income mortgage (not so popular now, I bet).

But then you read this tirade on
and see that even former Abbey employees, managers and shareholders are
deriding the bank, calling it Shabbey and claiming that the bank is
'dying on its feet'. 

Mind you, the bank has just gone through a massive cost reduction
programme where 24,000 jobs have been cut to 16,000 in the last three
years, to save £300 million.  Maybe that's why they're having issues
and why there are so many ex-employees who are angry and disgruntled.

So, is this just Mr. Angry of Anfield and Mrs. Disgruntled of Derby?

Not really.   There's more to it as it's also an issue created by their core systems upgrade.

BBC's Watchdog
caught this story and reported on it in December.  The story is that Mr.
Angry and Mrs. Disgruntled are p***ed off because the bank can't issue
them with debit cards.  The bank can't issue debit cards because of
their systems change.

So, one big reason why Abbey has such poor customer satisfaction levels
is 'core systems upgrade'.  Changing the engines at 39,000 feet can be
a very easy way of exposing yourself to customer issues.  For example, when you read through the Sparky vs Abbey discussion, you find an interesting note from Sparky that says

"By the way, the various people I have spoken to at The Abbey (say) that a
LOT of problems have cropped up since they changed to a new computer
system, presumably since they came under the wing of Santander. Emails
to Santander that I've sent have all gone unacknowledged and unanswered
but from what I glean from the people at Milton keynes is that I am one
of many many MANY people who have had their account details
'randomised' by the new system."

Hasta la vista, baby.

how the bank can be reported as aiming to 'increase its revenues twice
as fast as its rivals' is beyond me when they've trashed their customer
and staff loyalty.


* do First Direct always come out on
top because they don't have branches so you don't see their staff,
operations and processes?

Chris Skinner Author Avatar

Chris M Skinner

Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog,, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal's Financial News. To learn more click here...

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