Vancity says online banking, down for three days, now fixed

VANCOUVER — After a three-day service disruption, Vancity announced Saturday afternoon that the issues with its online banking system had been fixed, and immediately began doing damage control.

CEO Tamara Vrooman said she felt sick about the outage, which kept the credit union’s core banking system, online platforms, mobile apps and IT system offline since midnight on Wednesday, and apologized for the inconvenience caused to Vancity’s customers.

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“We know that our members rely on our online banking system to transact with us, to run their business with us, and to live their daily lives,” she said in a telephone call with Postmedia. “They’ve been inconvenienced. The first thing I want to say to members is we’re sorry, and we’re 100 per cent committed to making it right for them.”

Automatic teller machines, credit cards and point of sale purchases remained functional, but customers were not able to log into their online accounts, check balances, pay bills or complete electronic money transfers.

Now Vancity must deal with a backlog of banking needs, as well as thousands of angry customers, many of whom incurred late fees and other penalties when they couldn’t make online payments.

To that end, Vrooman said the credit union would be open through Thanksgiving weekend with extended hours, 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., from Saturday to Monday, and that Vancity would cover any “penalties, interest penalties, late charges,” accrued by members unable to access their banking information during the outage.

“We’ve also reached out to TransUnion and Equifax to ensure members’ credit scores will not be affected by this outage,” Vrooman said, adding that the credit union had also explained the situation to B.C. Hydro, Telus and other large utilities.

Echoing her words from a video message released Friday, Vrooman assured Vancity members that their banking information was safe, and that there was no privacy breach — something the credit union hired an outside IT security firm to independently confirm.

That was Vancity’s first step, Vrooman said, and it added to the delay. “Once we knew our members’ data was 100 per cent safe,” she said, the credit union went to work trying to locate the source of the problem.

In the end, it was complicated.

“This particular failure was not a failure of one server, or one piece of hardware. but actually in the interface between multiple systems,” Vrooman explained.

After isolating the issue, Vancity had to take even more time ensuring that it wouldn’t recur once the system was restored.

“We had to test it to make sure that when it came up again, it would be fully functional, knowing that a number of our members would be keen to transact. When we were fully confident that it was fully functional, that’s when we brought it up,” Vrooman said.

On Saturday, Vrooman explained that crews were working around the clock to restore the e-banking system, but it’s not as simple as flicking a switch.

“When you bring a system up like this after an outage of this length of time, a lot of data is stored in the background and it’s important that we test and release that data in a structured way to ensure the system is fully functional.”

Founded in 1946, Vancity is Canada’s largest community credit union with more than 525,000 members and 59 branches in Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley, Victoria, Squamish and Alert Bay.

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