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RBS’s Hester ‘Very Sorry’ as Glitch Halts Cash Withdrawals

Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc customers with accounts at its NatWest and Ulster Bank units have been “let down” after a systems failure left many unable to withdraw money, Chief Executive Officer Stephen Hester said.

The two banks extended opening hours at more than 1,000 branches in the U.K. and Ireland this weekend following what the bank said was “systems outage” which started on June 19. Hester said 1,200 branches will open tomorrow.

“I am very sorry for the difficulties people are experiencing,” Hester said in a statement on the company’s website today. “Our customers rely on us day in and day out to get things right, and on this occasion we have let them down. Right now my top priority, and the priority of the entire RBS Group, is to fix these problems and put things right for our customers.”

More than 900 NatWest branches opened with extended operating hours today to help with enquiries and provide access to cash, the bank said in a statement on its website. Ulster Bank, RBS’s Irish unit, has extended hours at many branches in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and will open a limited number on Sunday.

The computer failure on June 21 caused problems with cash withdrawals and money transfers for NatWest customers and a delay in processing payments for Ulster Bank customers.

NatWest said the initial problem had been resolved and that its priority was to address a “backlog” as soon as possible.

“This is taking time, but I want to reassure people that we are working around the clock to resolve these problems as quickly as we are able,” Hester said. “I also want to be clear that where our customers are facing hardship or difficulty we can and will help them.” He said no customers “will be left permanently out of pocket as a result of this.”

RBS, which is 82 percent taxpayer owned, faces increased competition for accounts from banks in the U.K., including Lloyds Banking Group Plc and Banco Santander SA. The bank has about 15 million personal banking customers across its brands and declined to specify how many were affected.

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