Abu Dhabi // HSBC, one of the UAE's largest retail banks, apologised for "inconveniencing" customers yesterday after leaving thousands unable to withdraw money for nearly nine hours. Customers were unable to take out cash from automated teller machines (ATMs) or bank online because of a scheduled upgrade. Despite its apology, HSBC was unable to explain why it had not taken further steps to warn customers of the shutdown, or why it could not be done at night when fewer customers would be inconvenienced.
"This isn't the first time HSBC has done this," said Robin, a 28-year-old Briton who lives in Abu Dhabi. He waited for more than an hour outside Dubai's Aquaventure water park until his friends could bring him enough money for the entrance fee. "This has happened several times and, now, doing it at midday on a Friday? That's more than just poor timing." Robin was unable to withdraw cash from several ATMs and found that phone attendants on HSBC's free customer service hotline were difficult to reach.
"I tried calling it for nearly half an hour, but their customer services lines are pretty useless," he said. "Only when I selected the option that allows you to listen to their special banking offers was I able to reach anybody." An HSBC representative said: "We apologise for any inconvenience that this may have caused." But the representative said the timing was necessary. "It was a planned event. It was done for a required system update and, for operational reasons, it had to be the time that it is."
The bank's website did carry a warning that phone and internet banking services would be down between 7am and 1.30pm. ATM services were unavailable from 6am to 2.30pm - a total of eight and half hours of interruption during peak hours for popular Friday brunches and early afternoon shopping trips. email@example.com