DBS bank users experienced difficulties accessing banking and payment services, on Friday afternoon due to a “higher volume traffic” on its digibank, according to the bank who were responding to frustrated users on its Facebook page who were unable to access mobile banking services. 

It later posted a statement on its Facebook page confirming that some retail customers faced difficulties accessing its banking and payment services, including DBS/POSB digibank Online and Mobile, DBS Vickers mTrading, DBS PayLah! and ATMs.

“Our digital systems returned to normal within 45 minutes at 1.30pm. Most of our ATMs are also up and running,” it said. “Please be assured that our systems are uncompromised, and your monies and deposits remain safe,” it continued. 

It then apologised for the inconvenience.

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Netizens however were unhappy particularly because the disruption comes just shortly two significant outages in March. 

Banking application DBS PayLah saw some frustrated users emerge as customers faced delays when it came to receiving their cashback in March after a high volume of logins affected a SG$3 meal subsidy that was being offered by the bank under its 5 Million Hawker Meals initiative.

According to DBS in a statement posted to its Facebook page, the bank apologised for the inconvenience and said, “We are aware that some customers who had earlier made eligible transactions under the DBS 5 Million Hawker Meals scheme did not instantly receive their cashback. Please be assured that we have credited the cashback to your PayLah! wallet.”

Just days after the outage, services were down once again. DBS users found themselves unable to log onto DBS’ digital systems after access was disrupted with the bank later saying that access was intermittent. Services were restored by 5.45pm according to an update by the bank at 7.30pm.

However, shortly after, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) released a statement saying that the disruption was “unacceptable” particularly as it was coming a year after a similar incident in November 2021.

“DBS has fallen short of MAS’ expectations to maintain high system availability and ensure its IT systems are recovered expeditiously,” the statement read. MAS has also instructed DBS to conduct a thorough investigation to establish the root cause of the disruption and to submit its investigation findings to MAS. “MAS will take the commensurate supervisory actions after gathering the necessary facts,” it said. 

MAS also said it takes the reliability of banks’ critical IT systems seriously. 

In response, DBS CEO, Piyush Gupta issued a statement on behalf of the bank:

We are disappointed that many of our customers were unable to access our digital banking services on 29 March 2023. We hold ourselves to higher standards and it is our utmost priority to review the events of today.

He continued by acknowledging the “gravity” of the situation and said that he appreciates the understanding of customers and “deeply regrets the inconvenience caused.”

“While it is all well and good for DBS to manage the incident from a communications perspective, fundamentally, such an outage and extended disruption should not be happening in the first place,” said Charu Srivastava, the corporate affairs lead and chief strategy officer at TriOn & Co, a strategic communications consultancy. This is especially so since DBS touts itself as a digital-first bank.

“As MAS has pointed out, this is the second incident in 16 months. While some customers may have forgotten about the November 2021 outage, many also have not and clearly, regulators are keeping tabs as they should,” she said before adding that while DBS may have managed its customers, it certainly did not live up to its previous promise of doing better. Srivastava here is referencing a massive outage to DBS’s online banking services in November 2021. At the time, DBS Bank’s access control servers disrupted its online banking services for about two days, preventing customers from being able to access its services.  The disruption was so serious that the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) imposed an additional capital requirement of SG$930 million on DBS due to the outage.

This incident though began at around 8.30 am when services to the bank were disrupted. At 10.20am, DBS posted an update to its Facebook page and confirmed that access to its digital services, namely digibank Online and Mobile, PayLah!, was unavailable. It said that it was working to resolve the issue and that it would update users as soon as services were recovered.

At 12.49pm, the bank issued a second update to report that access to its digital services, namely DBS/POSB digibank Online and Mobile, DBS Vickers mTrading and DBS PayLah!, was intermittent and that users may experience some slowness during login. It again assured users that their deposits and monies are safe and secure and apologised for inconveniences caused.

At 4.50pm, DBS once again posted an update saying that it deeply regrets the inconveniences caused but that access to its digital services remained unavailable and that they are doing their best to resolve the situation. It added that it would be extending banking services at its DBS/POSB branches and Treasures Centres today as a result of the outage. 

“While we are working to recover digital services, we’ve extended banking services at all DBS/POSB branches and Treasures Centers by two hours today. Customers can also continue to use their DBS/POSB cards for transactions,” it said.  The updates garnered a slew of unhappy customers reporting difficulties accessing the app and questioning why it was taking so long for DBS to rectify the situation. 

According to media intelligence company Meltwater, 32.5% of online sentiments were negative after the incident while only 9.3% were positive. It added that mentions of the brands spiked from just 35 yesterday to 132 today.

“I think trust in the tech space is currently low, and for products that impact the everyday life so pervasively, this could become a frustration point for users as noted by some netizens,” said Weldon Fung, the area director for Southeast Asia at Meltwater. “However as this is only impacting a particular segment of their business, the overall impact to DBS standing is low with some social media users going on to comment that people should be prepared with alternative payment forms at all times.

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