Serious problems with launch of new online service of Sampo Bank
Hitches in integrating with systems of new owner Danske Bank
"Something has gone badly wrong", says Murat Yüzlü at a branch office of Sampo Bank in Hakaniemi in the centre of Helsinki.
Yüzlü had tried to transfer money from one account to another through his online bank account from six in the morning. As the system was still not working in the afternoon, the only option was to appear in person in the bank, only to find out that the queue for personal service was over an hour long.
Many Sampo Bank customers shared Yüzlü's predicament. Sampo's transfer during Easter weekend to the ownership of the Danish Danske Bank was by no means a smooth transition.
The bank's website crashed early in the morning. The online banking service functioned only sporadically during the day, and even some of the bank's cash dispensers would not work. The bank's telephone service did not work, and the queues at the branch offices were hours long.
Especially frustrating was that some of the bank's debit, and credit cards would not work with ATMs.
Hannu Vuola, Sampo Bank's head of communications, said that the problem applied to a few hundred customers with a combined Sampo debit card and MasterCard credit card. Some Sampo customers also reported problems with combined Sampo-Visa cards and with some, the difficulties extended to regular Sampo debit cards.
Later on Tuesday it came out that the problem with the credit and debit cards was much more extensive than originally thought.
There were also verification problems. Some Sampo cards with an electronic chip would not work at certain retail outlets. Some of those who did manage to make a Sampo card purchase or withdraw money, found that the bank balance shown was incorrect.
Vuola said that efforts were underway to fix the problem, and he expected that the debit cards would be working properly on Wednesday. Vuola said that the online banking service was working again already on Tuesday evening after the congestion of the day eased.
The reason for all of the problems was the merger of the information systems of Sampo Bank and Danske Bank. The massive operation was under preparation for more than a year, and involved the work of hundreds of people, at a cost of EUR 200 million. Most of the expenses came from establishing compatibility between computer systems.
"We noticed that there were mistakes already on Monday, and we have been fixing them on Tuesday. Most of the problems of the online banking service arise when the customer sees the new pages and may not immediately know how to use them."
One of the most serious mistakes was noticed on Monday, when an online customer got to see the information of the account of another customer.
"It is a clear fault, which has been fixed. However, the information was not covered by banking secrecy."
Vuola did not want to comment on other problems. However, bank customers were all the more eager to discuss them - at bank branches, and among other places, on the Helsingin Sanomat discussion board.
Vuola promised that customers would be reimbursed for any service fees incurred from the electronics hiccups that force them to resort to personal visits to banks. However, the reimbursements were not automatically available - customers needed to ask for it separately.
Compensation was also promised if a customer's payment of a bill has been delayed as a result of problems caused by the bank, or if penalty interest is incurred.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Finnish Sampo Bank Group to be sold to Danish Danske Bank for EUR 4.05 billion (9.11.2006)