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Bank of England core system experiences outage

The “beating heart” of the UK financial system stopped after a technical issue

The  Bank of England’s core IT system, which settles £775bn worth of UK payments a day, experienced a major outage due to a “technical issue”.

The Real-Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) system, which settles payments between banks, was offline  from the beginning of business on August 14 until until about 12.00.

RTGS settles payments made between banks, including the clearing house automated payments system (CHAPS) and bankers’ automated clearing services (BACS).

Described as the “beating heart” of the UK financial system, the Bank of England has a commitment to ensure RTGS uptime of 99.95%.

Computer Weekly understands that the Bank of England does not consider the outage to be related to its ongoing project to migrate to the new system, or a cyber attack.

RTGS has been in use since 1996, and is essential in ensuring money flows in the economy. On an average day, the system settles transactions worth about £775bn.

On Monday August 14, the Bank of England said it experienced a technical issue which prevented it from opening its real-time gross settlement (RTGS) service and CHAPS high-value payments system until about 12.00, but at 4:45pm, it added: “The issue has been resolved and all CHAPS payments submitted to the Bank are settling normally. We do not anticipate that there will be any outstanding payments to settle when we close the system this evening.”

Read more about RTGS replacement project

The Bank of England is currently carrying out what it describes as a “once-in-a-generation” project to replace its 27-year-old system.

There are two major projects in the overall programme: the introduction of the latest ISO 20022 international financial messaging standard; and the build and roll-out of the central bank’s upgraded core settlement system, which is due to go live in the summer of 2024.

The first major milestone, completed last month (June 2023), was to introduce ISO 20022. It was a major IT project, which involved changing hardware and software not only at the Bank of England, but also “big technology programmes across the financial services industry” because firms had to change their systems to talk this different language.

Its next big milestone is the replacement of the RTGS core settlement system, the key ledger at the heart of the RTGS. The new system will make it easier for more types of firms to use while offering greater resilience and security.

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