This is a lovely one for Ritchie: CHAPS

The Bank of England did not admit the shutdown had taken place for more than five hours after the system had been due to open, and was later forced to extend opening hours by four hours to 8pm to clear the backlog of 143,000 payments.

More than 10 hours after first admitting to the problem with the clearing house automated payment system (Chaps) the Bank of England eventually apologised “for any problems caused by the delays to the settlement system”.

While Chaps was down, there were fears that homebuyers and sellers around the country would be left unable to complete purchases on time and that big businesses, which also use the system, would fail to make payments. Only weeks ago the Bank said it had a new contingency plan for the collapse of the payments system. The Bank of England will subject the system to additional monitoring when it reopens at 6am on Tuesday.


The point
being that Ritchie has been telling us that the State should design all of the banking systems and just lease that software etc to the banks themselves. Because, you know, obviously the State will do a better job.

10 comments on “This is a lovely one for Ritchie: CHAPS

  1. Ritchie can tell you Tim that this just wasn’t a problem, because banks can create money (not credit; money) out of thin air. No need for a clearing system in Ritchie’s world. Four o’clock, schnor o’clock.

  2. I’ve worked in the server room where it all happens; at least, one of them (I think there are three if memory serves). I mapped the electrical services to the server racks, to create a schedule, because nobody knew which rack was on which circuit breaker and board. Safety instructions consisted of “don’t turn anything off, because if you do the whole CHAPS system goes down”. And me and the other guy were like “okay righty ho then”.

    I don’t think the Bank Of England actually run the computers. They don’t run that bit anyway.

    I also was one of the engineers responsible for a very large insurance company having to send all their staff home one day, because it turned out that the entire company depended on one server room, and we had to turn the power to it off before something blew up. IT were not a popular department that day. How we laughed.

  3. Do the BoE run CHAPS? I didn’t know that. But it’s not as if the various private banks haven’t all had occasional issues with their payment systems. And BACS has gone down a time or two in it’s entirety.

    Computer things break sometimes.

    I don’t have a problem with the idea that the state should control a system for the transmission of money.

  4. Like I said, the CHAPS handling room I was in was under one of the City’s major commercial banks, nowhere near the BoE. Or maybe it was BACS.

  5. So go on Ian B, give us the skinny.

    I keep hearing that the entire banking IT system is held together by string, duct tape and code fragments written in COBOL by long dead hippies.

    Some inside dope from one in the know would certainly add to the air of doom that pervades the nation as we enter the winter of our discontent.

  6. Kevin B,

    As someone who worked in banking software, I can confirm that a large amount of it is COBOL code running on mainframes. I even know that there’s some assembler in there.

    The reason is that it works. And if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. If you’ve got an interest calculation routine that works and has not had a known bug for over a decade, why rewrite it and risk introducing some new ones?

    And if they run out of COBOL people, I’m sure I’ll start getting calls, and if someone offers me enough, I’ll go back to it.

  7. “As someone who worked in banking software, I can confirm that a large amount of it is COBOL code running on mainframes. I even know that there’s some assembler in there.”

    I was once told that (at the time) some code ran in emulation on different hardware because they’d lost the original source code, couldn’t recompile it, and the original machine wasn’t made any more.

    Back to a comment in the original post, though: “the State should design all of the banking systems and just lease that software etc to the banks themselves”

    It’s actually a good principle to have several implementations of a common specification, both to ensure there is a usable specification (that will be useful later, really!) and to provide something like genetic diversity (eg, not everything will crash simultaneously from exactly the same cause).

  8. CHF.

    “I was once told that (at the time) some code ran in emulation on different hardware because they’d lost the original source code, couldn’t recompile it, and the original machine wasn’t made any more.”

    That’s a very bad idea because when you find a bug and it needs fixing quickly, you won’t be able to. In that situation, you need to re-specify what the code does, get it re-written and then run the resulting code in a test environment with the live data, checking it gets the same results.

  9. I even know that there’s some assembler in there.

    Yeah, some of that will be mine.

    Given the PRA fined RBS for its outage, will the BoE now follow precedent and fine itself ?

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