ICT hitch stalls customer services at National Bank

National Bank CEO Wilfred Musau. FILE PHOTO | NMG
National Bank CEO Wilfred Musau. FILE PHOTO | NMG  

A three-day ICT system outage has left thousands of National Bank of Kenya #ticker:NBK customers unable to access key services from the mid-tier lender, including deposit and withdrawal of cash over the counter.

The service outage, which started on Monday following an upgrade of NBK’s banking platform on Saturday, persisted Wednesday leaving thousands of customers stranded.

Nearly all over-the-counter services such as cash deposits, cheque deposits, and electronic transfer services were disrupted due to a technical hitch after the weekend software enhancement.

The bank opted to redirect its customers to access the services via its ATMs.

“Due to our system upgrade done on 9th September, we have delays on some of our channels. Work is in progress to restore normalcy,” said the bank in a short message service sent to its customers on Tuesday afternoon.

Despite assurances from the bank that things were back to normal Wednesday, a spot check at NBK’s Kenyatta Avenue Branch found that little banking activity was going on as scores of customers milled around the lobby pondering their next move.

NBK had banked on the new ICT platform to “offer enhanced performance, flexibility and real-time interfaces.”

On Wednesday, many customers said the technical delays had greatly affected their daily operations and pleaded for a speedy solution.

The outage is expected to hit the bank’s revenues – having missed millions in transaction fees since Monday. 

National Bank is ranked 11th in size out of Kenya’s 38 operational banks. It has 520,000 deposit accounts and 54,000 loan accounts that give it a cumulative market share of 2.9 per cent according to latest CBK data.

The bank’s management admitted the system outage had affected services, but added that the problem was being tackled. Distraught NBK customers took to social medial platforms to vent their frustrations.

“What’s wrong at National Bank Bungoma, they say network something, please look into it,” said @lucasmilimo on Twitter.

Another Twitter user using the handle @mawaggali said: “@National_Bank what’s happening to your systems? Are you going under? How can a transaction done on Friday not reflect on Tuesday evening?”

NBK at the weekend switched to the latest version of BankFusion Universal Banking (BFUB), a core banking software by London-based tech firm Misys. The new platform also integrates Islamic banking functionalities.

The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) noted that there was no major acquisition or upgrade of existing core banking systems in the country last year.

“The technical teams have been working around the clock to address these challenges and most of the services, including cash withdrawals across the counter, cash deposits across the counter, cheque deposits, mobile phone transactions and electronic money transfers and all other major bank transactions are now available,” said chief executive Wilfred Mutuku Musau.

NBK – where KCB Group plans to acquire a majority stake - reported that its half-year net profit had tumbled to Sh179.8 million from Sh311.2 million in June last year, a 42 per cent drop.

This is attributed to lower earnings from loans – with net interest income dropping by a third to Sh2.8 billion in June 2017 compared to Sh4.4 billion the previous year -  as the interest rate caps regime narrowed the lenders’ interest rate spreads.