Tricentis survey for Q1 ranks banks behind government bodies in “Fail Watch”

Despite headlines about the $81m Bangladesh Bank fraud and HSBC online payments crash, banks’ software problems are outnumbered by those of other industries in a leading league table

A criminal gang exploited vulnerabilities in the security systems of the central bank of Bangladesh and SWIFT payments software to steal $81 million in February — the most costly software bug classified in the first quarter by Austrian testing service provider Tricentis in its regular Software Fail Watch. But according to Tricentis’s quarterly report on software failures across major industries around the world, there were only two other reported software glitches at banks while the problems of the government and other major sectors were far more numerous.

The other two bugs affecting financial services firms in Q1 were the breakdown in HSBC’s online payments system in the UK for several hours in the beginning of January, and a glitch in NatWest’s mobile payments platform that sent payments to the wrong accounts in March.

Governments were the worst affected by software problems, with 42 separate failures listed and then retail sectors, with 28. The other categories — entertainment, services, and transportation — all suffered more bugs than banking.

Tricentis’s marketing and social media strategist, Chelsea Frischknecht, is quick to point out that the report captures only those problems that are made public, and that banks are still able to conceal all but the largest and most damaging problems with software.

“People seem to expect malfunctions in government software,” said Frischknecht. “It might come down to the use of older technology, or it might be that governments are more transparent.”

Financial services firms, by contrast, remain far more secretive about software problems, she added. “Details about the bugs only come out when it’s something really big, like HSBC this year, or when a failure in SunGard’s software stopped trading at BNY Mellon last year,” said Frischknecht. “Whenever possible, banks try to cover up anything that goes wrong. But if there are thousands of customers complaining this becomes impossible.”    

And that is why we rarely hear about banking software problems that affect the back office, said Frischknecht. “It’s things like mobile banking, or online payments, because these are the easiest ones for the customers to spot.”

Additional information: Chelsea Frischknecht’s blog post ‘Software Fail Watch 2016, Quarter One’ is here, with her full Q1 list of reported software bugs in an Excel spreadsheet here.

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