A local bank battens down the hatches.
Thursday, March 4, 1999
First National Bank of the Central Coast, which primarily serves business customers from its branches in Monterey, Salinas, Carmel, Watsonville and Soledad, not only has been preparing itself for Y2K since 1997--they sponsor public seminars on the topic, to help other local residents and businesses get ready, too.
"We are very dependent on computers and computer systems," says Marketing Vice President Cheryl Duffus. "Everything in a bank is done by computer, so we are highly susceptible to any problem that could happen to a computer system."
Two years ago, the bank formed a Y2K committee which includes the heads of all departments that could be affected: operations, loans, marketing, date processing, and so on. The committee meets monthly, and has put together a complete plan and timeline to assure company-wide compliance, as well as detailed contingency plans.
"It''s a ''what-if-we-lost-power'' plan," Duffus says. Say, for example, PG&E is unable to deliver power on Jan.1, or for days thereafter. Everything in the bank that runs by electricity, from tellers'' PCs to ATMs, will be out of commission, even if their microchips are up-to-date.
Not to worry, she says. They''ll just do it all by hand. "The manual processes are still there," she says. "We have to make sure we have enough forms on hand to make deposits and withdrawals manually." That means hauling out and dusting off the old manual typewriters, as well. "We''ll have to make sure we have them," she says.
Although customers should carry ID with them, being a local bank has its advantages. "We know our customers, for the most part," she says.
Getting ready for Y2K "is a very costly thing," she says, both in terms of financial outlay for purchasing and upgrading computers and microchip-embedded system, and in terms of personnel hours spent dealing with it all.
In the data processing department, for example, two full-time microprocessors had to run complete diagnostic tests on every PC, upgrading, ordering and installing new software and hardware as needed.
And it''s not just computers. The bank''s senior vice president of operations had to check out the original architectural plans for every building in each branch, to see where microchips might conceivably have been placed. Heating and ventilation systems, elevators, kitchens, bank vaults controlled by date-sensitive microchips-- "It goes way beyond just the PCs sitting on people''s desks," Duffus points out. "If there''s a computer chip, it''s a simple process to make it Y2K compliant. The problem is finding them all. A lot of manufacturing lines are run by computer chips, and people forget that. They think if they check their computers, their PCs, they''re fine. And in fact, they may not be."
In addition to reviewing its own internal affairs, the bank has to make sure all its vendors are up to speed. First National does not run its own ATM machines, for example, although they expect to do so by the end of the year.
The bank also has to make sure its large loan customers and large depositors are Y2K compliant. "We''re making checklists and going through it with them, we give them referral sources if they''re not prepared and strongly advising them to begin now," she says. "You don''t want to see one of your large borrowers go out of business!"
Duffus says the bank is already fielding plenty of questions from customers and would-be customers. "They want to talk to our president or CEO, they want something in writing to see that we''re Y2K compliant," she reports. "We haven''t seen any complete panic, just general questions. That''s good. It shows people are reading, and it gives us a chance to talk to our customers and make them feel comfortable."
What are Duffus'' own plans for midnight Dec. 31? Well, she admits she''ll withdraw a couple extra bucks from her own ATM. "And I will not be in an airplane or an elevator," she states. cw