Cyber Banking Struggles

Today’s entry is based on one of the 20 case studies in my position paper, “Beyond the Bottom Line: 20 Ways to Reduce Reputational Risk.”

The risk

An online banking service is taken by surprise when a web browser update denies its customers access to their accounts

The Background

This case study comes from personal experience. The day started innocently enough. I went online to check my bank account and to pay some bills, yet was unable to log in, receiving a message that the connection could not be made for security reasons.


It was then I noticed the alert on the bank’s home page. The system currently refused to work with the latest version of Mozilla’s Firefox browser.

The Reputational Costs

I tried two points of contact with the bank. First, I sent an email to the customer service address provided on the web site. I waited nearly 12 hours for a reply. When it became clear that responsive customer service meant something different to them than to me, I picked up the phone. A defensive operator informed me that it would take two weeks for their IT vendor to solve the problem, and that there was no one else I could talk to about this.

I should note that this small community bank has received the bulk of my personal and commercial business for decades. It is comforting to be called by name when doing business there. Unfortunately, this was one of those times when sound business practices dictated a larger and more competent IT capability.

All things considered, I’ll probably keep some accounts at the bank in question. However, after many years of turning to it without question, I’ll now think twice before placing any new business there.

Recommended Action

  1. The top priority when planning for a potential crisis is to do the right thing in the first place. In this case, the bank would have been wise to communicate an intent to beef up its technology capabilities going forward.
  2. Anticipate crises that can be foreseen. Browser updates are common occurrences. No reputable IT firm should be caught with its drawers down. Tellingly, I encountered no other web site that was similarly affected.
  3. Game out how your company might respond to certain reputational risk situations, using “Simulations Generate Communications Success” as a guide.


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