The United States' Federal Reserve system today suffered a shock outage that knocked an extensive array of services offline. The Fed is the US's Central Bank and provides a wide range of financial services as well as supervising the nation's largest banks. Its mandate includes promoting the stability of the financial system.
Its automated clearinghouse system, which underpins the ability of institutions to send electronic credit and debt transfers was among the many services that fell over. Its ability to settle interbank obligations in central bank money was also hit.
"Beginning around 11:15 a.m. ET, Federal Reserve Bank staff became aware of a disruption for all services. Our technical teams have determined that the cause is a Federal Reserve operational error", the bank said.
The outage was resolved at 2.17pm ET it said.
"Payment deadlines are impacted and will communicate remediation efforts to our customers when available" the Federal Reserve said following the outage on its status page.
Account Services, Central Bank, Check 21, Check Adjustments, FedACH, FedCash, FedLine Advantage, FedLine Command, FedLine Direct, FedLine Web, Fedwire Funds, Fedwire Securities, National Settlement were all understood to be unavailable for over an hour.
Data centres and much physical hardware for the Federal Reserve's 12 banks are operated out of the Federal Reserve System’s national IT centre in Richmond, Virginia, with the banks running IT for their individual applications.
Speaking to The Stack late 2020, the CIO of the New York Federal Reserve Bank, Pamela Tyson, said that technical debt remained an issue across the bank: "There has been] a lot of solution duplication because technology was being developed in business silos. Our North Star is to be a leader in technology and central banking. In order to do that, we need to break down those silos. We need to be more nimble. We need to be quicker to market. We need to deliver capability quicker as technology emerges," she said.
The CIO added: "We want to drive technology up to an enterprise level – and we need to be able to clearly see all of the work that’s being done across the bank. The other thing is we’ve been a very custom-built solution organisation. We want to be able to leverage more modern technologies and we want to do more buy-and-configure versus build-and-customise, because that had gotten us into a lot of technological debt and has limited the depth of our technology options.”
A Federal Reserve spokesperson told The Stack: "A Federal Reserve operational error resulted in disruption of service in several business lines. We have restored services and communicated with all Federal Reserve Financial Services customers about the status of operations."