'Accept our deep apology' – Standard Bank explains Saturday's mass outage

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Standard Bank customers could not swipe, make payments or withdraw money from ATMs for the most part of Saturday.
Standard Bank customers could not swipe, make payments or withdraw money from ATMs for the most part of Saturday.
Gallo Images/Foto24/Brendan Croft
  • Standard Bank customers could not swipe, make payments or withdraw money from ATMs for the most part of Saturday.
  • One of the critical components for processing payments, called the generic switch, started failing at 7:30 am, and the bank only fixed it in the afternoon.
  • Standard Bank asks customers to accept its "sincerely apology", and promises to reduce outages.


Standard Bank has tendered a "sincere apology" to its customers after a massive outage on Saturday, which left customers stranded as their cards were declined and ATMs wouldn't dispense any money.

From 7:30 am on Saturday morning, Standard Bank started experiencing degradation on one of its components, called a generic switch, which is responsible for responsible for switching transactions related to cut payments into the bank.

By 09:00, the majority of Standard Bank customers could not transact at all.

"It was the first time that we have ever seen this type of filler on this component, at least in the last four years. It's been very, very stable component, and which is why when it happened, our engineers responded very, very quickly," said Standard Bank's chief engineering officer, Khomotso Molabe.

ATMs were not working either. So, customers were stranded, unable to make payments in any way after filling their tanks at petrol stations. Standard Bank only managed to recover by late afternoon on Saturday. Only customers making tap and pay purchases below R200 could transact.

Business clients were not able to receive payments on their devices either. Although the bank says thousands of customers were affected, Molabe said it's difficult to estimate the exact numbers or the rand value of transactions that couldn't go through.

"And this of course, was compounded by the fact that we were talking about a large number of clients given our significant position in South Africa and for this, once again, we offer our deep, deep apology for the severity of Saturday's incident," said Molabe.

Other incidents

Outages have become a recurring thorn in Standard Bank's customers' side. 

In April 2021, the bank was hit by intermittent outages for days. In September, its mobile app crashed. In October, it had another pay-day outage. In December, another five-hour outage struck.

Standard Bank said it has already three other incidents this year, but those were not related to the component failure experienced on Saturday. Those three resulted from a software bug. Molabe said that bug issue has been completely fixed, and that part of technological glitch is stable now.

However, Standard Bank customers who've inconvenienced many times will likely not care about the technical differences between the last outage and the previous ones.

"I acknowledge the point that in the eyes of the customer, what they remember and feel is that they were trying to access a service and they were not able to, regardless of what the technicalities are," said Molabe.

He said Standard Bank isn't promising that there will never ever be another service disruption again. But it is committing to continue reducing the number of these incidents.

Making its technology resilient

Standard Bank has digitised more than 90% of its services. And the more things happen online, the greater the chances of technological failures. But it said it is investing more towards making its technologies more resilient, and in the event that a technology fails, it can quickly switch to alternatives.

"We are also continuing to develop our engineers because technology, by its nature, doesn't stand still. It needs to be improved all the time…I can assure that these issues are no way related to lack of appetite or investments that is below what is required," said Molabe.

Standard Bank SA CEO Lungisa Fuzile said the bank is hiring engineers in great numbers.

"We also make sure that the engineers that we have – to the extent that technology changes very fast – we continue to upskill and reskill them to make sure that they have the skills that are relevant to the future that we aspire for," he said.

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