ROYAL Bank of Scotland is to spend £1 billion on a three-year plan to improve its online and mobile banking services after a succession of high profile IT failures.
The “digital first” investment in personal and small business banking between now and 2017 comes in the wake of a 200 per cent jump in customer usage of RBS online and mobile technology over the last three years.
RBS is already working on plans to improve the resilience of its systems after a number of online outages, most notably a crash in the summer of 2012 which cost the group around £175 million in compensation.
RBS and NatWest have around six million active online customers and three million customers who use mobile technology.
Under the plans, customers will be able to view and amend regular payments on their mobiles without having to use online banking.
The personal and small business banking mobile apps will also be integrated so that customers can see and act on both accounts in one app.
More than 400 branches will be upgraded and fitted with new technology including iPads to allow customers to register and access online banking. It is also adding up to 100 new ATM locations, including in railway stations. Free wi-fi access will enable customers to use their own digital devices in branch.
Les Matheson, chief executive of personal and business banking, said: “Our customers’ needs are rapidly changing, they want to bank day-to-day in the most convenient ways available.
“We must respond to their needs and continue to improve on the service we offer both online and on mobile.”
He added the company’s branch network would continue to play an important role.
The bank has around 1,900 branches but chief executive Ross McEwan, below, told shareholders at the bank’s AGM this week that closures are inevitable. He said: ‘’The truth is that some branches hardly see a customer, which is why we are taking tough decisions about closing some, and sometimes making staff redundant – although that is always a last resort.’’
In December McEwan apologised to customers and admitted the bank had neglected its technology for decades.
His comments came just after a system crash which left more than a million customers unable to withdraw cash or pay for goods on one of the busiest online shopping days of the year,
“For decades, RBS failed to invest properly in its systems,” McEwan said at the time.
Richard Lloyd, executive director at consumer group Which? said: “We have long called for banks to improve their systems, so welcome this investment by one of our biggest banking groups. We found 89 per cent of people have access to online banking so it’s good to see RBS responding to the needs of customers who are increasingly banking online or through their mobile phones.”