In late August, HSBC Bank USA ran into another H.S.B.C-the heat-seeking ballistic customer. For nearly a week, the North American arm of the London-based bank experienced a disastrous outage of its core processing system that failed to post transactions, held up direct deposits and locked HSBC Direct online customers out of their accounts.

The outage, which the bank blamed on disk failures in Web-site notices and emails to customers, created a whirlwind of bad press for the bank, as customers reported they were unable to access their accounts or tally balances. The nadir came when an estimated 8,000 employees for a Buffalo, NY area health system failing to receive their direct-deposit pay, forcing the bank to extend branch hours to work out arrangements, according to press reports.

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