VyStar outage leaves members without digital banking access for 10 days
Jacksonville, Florida-based VyStar Credit Union’s members began to regain incremental access to online banking services May 23, after more than 10 days without access.
The credit union initially notified customers that digital banking services would be unavailable from May 13 through May 15 as the organization rolled out a new online and mobile banking system.
But the outage has persisted longer than intended, and some members’ online transfers made after May 15 were temporarily delayed, the credit union said. It later confirmed the transactions were successfully being processed but that some customers were unable to access the mobile and digital platforms.
“The system did not collapse or trip over — we took the system down actively and decided to do some tweaks,” Brian Wolfburg, the credit union’s CEO, told the Jacksonville Business Journal. “We tried to take it back up once more and we saw the same issues, so we took it down completely and decided to invest the time that was necessary to make sure we get this right for our members.”
Wolfburg emphasized there were “absolutely no issues” regarding the protection of members’ accounts and personal information — “no cybersecurity issues, no hacks, no breaches, nothing like that.”
The credit union had been planning improvements to its online banking experience for about two years, he said.
“The load capacity wasn’t there that we needed,” Wolfburg said, adding that “pent-up demand” exacerbated access issues.
“We expanded capacity, we restructured some of the architecture — how some of the information is moved and where it queues up and things like that,” he said. “On top of that, we did put a program on the outside of our online banking environment that throttles access to it to make sure that as people go in, we limit the number of new sign-ins every minute and how many people are on the program as a whole.”
News4Jax reported it received messages from numerous credit union members who were unable to pay their bills or unaware whether their payments had been processed.
One member described being forced to pay overdraft fees because the outage caused delays in transferring money between VyStar and another financial institution.
“I can confidently share that our core banking system, which serves as our main system of record for all member transactions and balances, is fully operational and members' account information is completely secure,” VyStar’s chief member experience officer, Joel Swanson, said in a YouTube video during the outage. “Direct deposits and other transactions are successfully being processed as expected in members' accounts.”
The credit union has “a couple tweaks” it wants to make to improve performance and add functionality, Wolfburg said.
“Right now, we’re restricting to make sure everything’s working properly,” he said. “Once those are all set, we will roll it out into the mobile and launch our new mobile app.”
The credit union waived fees for members as the outage persisted, Swanson said.
Wolfburg, meanwhile, said he takes “full responsibility” for the access issues.
“When it comes down to it, the CEO is responsible for everything that happens in the organization,” he said, adding the credit union “will work to regain our members’ confidence.”
“We missed something,” Wolfburg said. “We are going to do a full postmortem on that, we are going to evaluate what occurred, and we are going to get to the bottom of it and get answers.”
In recent years, VyStar has looked to expand its retail footprint by acquiring community banks. The credit union bought Perry, Florida-based $280 million-asset Citizens State Bank in August 2019, and announced plans to acquire Jonesboro, Georgia-based Heritage Southeast Bank with $1.5 billion in assets in March 2021.
That deal has been delayed three times, however, and the timeline for the acquisition has been extended to June 30.