JMMB Group Limited (JMMBGL) has responded to concerns surrounding the disruption of its Moneyline platform which saw banking customers across three territories unable to access their accounts online.
Bank platforms undergo significant system processes at the end of any month, which is meant to facilitate several processes including the payment of interest and other critical banking functions. However, JMMBGL customers started to notice delays for some transactions on May 31, with several inbound and outbound banking transfers not reaching the intended bank accounts on June 1. This later morphed into clients being unable to see their bank accounts online and, in turn, unable to access their money except for the funds on the accounts connected to their debit cards.
"The JMMB Moneyline platform experienced a disruption between May 31 and June 3 as a result of an internal technical issue which occurred on May 31, impacting some transactions made on that day. The JMMB Bank was able to identify the issue and restore access to JMMB Moneyline in a short timeframe as a result of the robust backup system in place. This downtime was not as a result of any external factors, and we wish to assure clients that their financial and personal information remain safe and secure," said JMMB Bank (Jamaica) Limited CEO Jerome Smalling in an e-mail with the Jamaica Observer.
While Jamaican bank clients were perturbed at the situation, clients in Trinidad & Tobago were also vexed as they couldn't access their accounts either. Smalling highlighted that the Dominican Republic was also affected, but experienced the least severe disruption. Approximately 18,000 client accounts, or less than 15 per cent of those who use online access, were affected by the situation between Jamaica and Trinidad during the period. Some clients noted that they didn't see some transactions posted on June 3 when the bank accounts were visible again.
When asked why there was an extended delay to bring the system back online, Smalling responded, "The main error which occurred with the end of day process on May 31, we began correcting by the following day. However, in an effort to ensure that there would be no further negative impact to our clients, additional checks were implemented to ensure that all discrepancies were addressed before making Moneyline available. This resulted in an extended period for which Moneyline was not available. The team continues to monitor the situation to ensure that all issues are resolved, in keeping with our promise to our clients."
Many banking customers keep their extra funds in a separate account to prevent all their money from being drained in the event of their debit card being compromised. As a result of not having online access, many customers couldn't transfer money to the account connected to their debit card to pay for basic services such as groceries and gas for their cars.
Apart from committing to paying the late fees for individual and business clients who would have been unable to fulfill third-party obligations like utility bills, JMMB Bank is also waiving fees related to money transfers, manager's cheques, and foreign drafts for clients in Jamaica and Trinidad for the rest of the month.
There were prior system challenges related to Moneyline in October 2020 which saw JMMB Bank (Jamaica) waive fees for clients for an extended period of time. The JMMB Bank situation reflects one of the concerns which will arise from the push to a digital society. While this has been seen by some as a unique incident, NCB Jamaica clients were negatively affected in May 2019 after a system upgrade resulted in many customers not receiving their salary for a week.
While Beryllium was not attacked last month, the cost for security services has gone up by as much as 90 per cent in the last three months in Jamaica. This, along with the fear of cyber-attacks and other fraudulent events, continue to permeate the trust that people in the population have in going digital. However, Smalling highlighted that the system error wasn't as a result of external factors and that they do extensive checks and apply due care to protect client information.
"In the coming weeks JMMB Bank will be conducting a series of activities to help eliminate and/or reduce the likelihood of this kind of system disruption occurring in the future. The JMMB Group assures clients that it is committed to continuous improvement and will continue to pursue best in class systems and processes while also [putting] any additional processes and systems in place to bolster its systems â€” even as we remain confident in our current back-up system that allowed us to restore our platform in a timely manner," Smalling closed.