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Outage Watch
Julius Baer Group branch office in Frankfurt Image: Karsten Ratzke

Julius Baer Suffered Tech Crash That Left Bank, Clients Offline

The outage was caused by an issue between the bank’s IT systems and a data center, reports suggest.

(Bloomberg) -- Julius Baer Group suffered a crash of its core banking systems on February 16 that left Switzerland’s second-largest wealth manager offline for some time, according to people familiar with the matter. 

In a statement, Julius Baer confirmed the temporary outage of its IT systems late afternoon on February 16 caused by “a technical connectivity issue” and added that it was fixed “within a short time.”

The failure of operating systems meant that clients – except some in Asia – were unable to make payments, trade or look at their portfolios during the period, the people said, asking not to be identified discussing internal matters. 

At the same time, Julius Baer bankers couldn’t access any client data, while relationship managers were at a loss over what to tell customers, according to the people. Internal communication systems failed and staffers had to rely on mobile phones and messaging apps, they said.

The outage hit Julius Baer at a time when it’s attempting to restore confidence after its exposure to real estate mogul Rene Benko’s collapsed Signa group of companies plunged the Zurich-based bank in turmoil. Julius Baer wrote down all of its loans to Signa firms and said it would exit the private debt business, while Philipp Rickenbacher resigned as chief executive officer earlier this month.

Additionally, several top executives face pay cuts for their involvement with the Signa exposure while the wealth manager has vowed to strengthen its risk management in coordination with Finma. 

The incident has now been flagged to the Swiss financial regulator Finma and authorities in the UK, the people said. Representatives for Finma and the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Failures of IT systems aren’t rare at financial institutions. In January, a ransomware attack shut down some operations at a fintech firm underpinning trillions of dollars of securities lending. In Asia, DBS Group Holdings slashed its CEO’s pay by $3 million after the lender suffered a series of digital banking outages last year. 

The glitch at Julius Baer had something to do with a linkage between the bank’s IT systems and a data center that broke down, the people said. The extent of the impact on clients was however mitigated by the fact that the outage happened outside of the busiest European trading hours.

Julius Baer shares lost almost a quarter of their value immediately after the Benko risks came to the fore, but have rebounded somewhat since. The bank has faced regulatory scrutiny in recent years over money-laundering controls, with previous CEO Boris Collardi receiving a formal reprimand. 

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