RBS used to be known for its parsimonious approach to information technology rather than technology meltdowns. I could be wrong but I believe that the bank was still using chain printers in the 90s and was quite proud of the fact that it didn’t leer at every new computing trend that happened along the IT catwalk. When something went wrong with hardware or software, and it was assumed that things could and would go wrong, there was generally someone on hand who knew how to fix the problem, having spent years working with and fine-tuning the systems. It’s a valid approach to most areas of business as long as you value and retain the appropriate staff.
In the interests of full disclosure
Only yesterday I adopted the RBS approach of yore, having walked past a thrift store and spied a Linksys WRT54G router going for a fiver. I made my purchase and almost immediately installed DD-WRT firmware, which effectively upgrades the router to be almost infinitely configurable. I now have a high-power wireless repeater bridge which boosts my Wifi signal beyond the confines of my home and halfway across town. In addition I’ve added two old Linksys Network Storage devices – which in their turn have had their firmware upgraded to NSLU2-Linux, becoming a pair of Linux servers and tons of cheap backup capacity. It’s certainly not state-of-the-art and it’s definitely not pretty, but then it doesn’t need to be and it all lives out-of-sight in a cupboard and will probably remain there for several years.
Cyber Monday meltdown
Due to the RBS/NatWest Cyber Monday meltdown, RBS has now publicly inverted its previous, well-advertised, approach to technology investment and decided that it was a bad thing and that spending money on IT is the new way forward. It’s a disingenuous argument that attempts to skate over the past few years of outsourcing that’s been occurring at RBS, which the IT industry sees as probably being far more pertinent to its problems.
Running on empty
The tendency to hark back to a more holistic approach to business appears to be genetic. A few years ago I berated my father after he was “advised” to stash a cash windfall into the worst-performing, low-interest bearing account by bank staff who had their eyes solely on their sales commission rather than my father’s returns. My father reminded me that the bank had been very good to our family the last time we’d moved house, having arranged an interest-free bridging loan to prevent one of the purchases in the chain from failing. I, in turn, reminded father that the last time the family had moved house, Harold Wilson was still Prime Minister.
Not trusted with a pair of scissors
What really surprises me though is that RBS actually has any customers left. Given its fairly widely-advertised history over the past five years or so, if it takes a glitch in your Christmas shopping on the 2nd of December to make you complain about your bank then you’re probably not to be trusted with a pair of scissors, never mind being trusted with a credit card… that those scissors should be cutting up.