Banks ready for Y2K, but customers wary,,,, : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Have you noticed that banks are not even Y2K Ready but "We will be ready for Y2K or the year 2000"? I recall Firstar bank ran adds in our local newpaper the last month but they have disappeared. Notice the statement about "behaving abnormally.

Banks ready for Y2K, but customers wary


At the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve, few industries are expected to fare as well as banks. Federal regulators say 98 percent of all banks already have done work necessary to avoid year 2000 computer problems, and they are confident the rest will be ready by Dec. 31.

But in a striking contrast, bank customers are not so sure. A recent Gallup poll found that 42 percent of consumers expect automated teller machines to malfunction and 38 percent fear checks will bounce. One in five people fear that Y2K will shut down the entire banking system.

The conclusion of bank regulators and industry experts? Banks have a good story to tell, but they aren't getting their message across.

``Even though banks may have been making an effort, they have to do more to make sure they are conveying their message,'' said Donna Tanoue, chairwoman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., which regulates most U.S banks.

For the last year, banks have relied heavily on ``statement stuffers'' to inform their customers about Y2K progress, but it appears people haven't read them. Nearly 75 percent of consumers said in the March survey that they hadn't received any Y2K information from their banks, a surprisingly high figure considering that regulators began pressing banks to launch their Y2K communication efforts more than a year ago.

Now regulators are urging banks to be more proactive by hosting community seminars on Y2K preparedness, sending customers a separate letter from the bank president and training tellers to broach the issue with customers in branches.

``Between now and the end of the year, you are going to see a lot more communication,'' said Charlotte Birch, a spokeswoman for the American Bankers Association.

Union Bank of California began running ads last weekin the state's major newspapers, declaring that the San Francisco-based bank is ``Y2K OK.'' That slogan also will soon appear on bank statements, envelopes, ATMs and in branch displays. Some of Union's business customers will receive personal letters, and tellers recently began handing out Y2K brochures to every branch visitor.

The message Union wants to deliver: business as usual.

``The greatest risk we face at the end of the year isn't with our systems not working properly,'' said Lee Kirkpatrick, senior vice president at Union. ``The risk is that people will behave abnormally. That's what will cause the system to have problems.''

At Sanwa Bank California, officials spent $25,000 to produce a Y2K video, which it hopes will be used by local television stations. The Los Angeles-based bank also is sending its executives to speak at Rotary club meetings and on cable access shows. Tellers, meanwhile, will soon be sporting Y2K buttons and pins designed to stimulate discussion.

Similar marketing efforts are under way across the country. Wachovia Bank recently began running radio spots in Washington.

In Oklahoma, roadside billboards with the slogan ``Nothing's safer than money in the bank'' are going up this month, courtesy of the Oklahoma Bankers Association. A couple of East Coast banks have announced plans to stay open on New Year's Day to assure depositors that all is well.

Bank officials concede that the industry had a late start in marketing their YK2 message. But until banks passed the June 30 Fed-imposed deadline for demonstrating that their key computer systems are ready for Y2K, the most banks could tell their customers was, ``We're working on it.''

``That's not the kind of message that institutions wanted to spend money to send,'' said John Stafford, spokesman for the California Bankers Association. Now that most institutions have received their ``satisfactory'' rating from regulators, Stafford expects to see more aggressive marketing.

Fear of lawsuits also has forced banks to move slowly. Mindful of the wave of Y2K litigation already clogging the courts, some banks worry that their marketing promises could come back to haunt them if computer problems arise.

``The problem in California is that it seems one in five people is an attorney,'' said Wayne Socha, a senior project vice president at Sanwa Bank. ``So everything has to go through legal (experts) to make sure it's framed carefully.''

An example of the legal maneuvering is apparent on Wachovia Bank's Web site, which declares simply: ``We are ready.''But then below the message, the bank can't help including several paragraphs of legal fine print, including the seemingly contradictory statement that the bank's previous message ``should not be interpreted as a specific representation or warranty by Wachovia Corp. and its affiliates with respect to its year 2000 readiness.''

Finally, some banks have been purposely delaying their Y2K marketing efforts until the Dec. 31 deadline draws nearer, just as politicians wait until the final weeks of an election to unleash their television ads.

``We think the concern level will go up in September through December,'' Socha said. ``That's when there will be more doom and gloom. And that's when we plan to put more of our message out.''

While some banks are experimenting with radio and newspaper ads, most expect to spend far less on Y2K marketing than they would, for example, to promote a new credit card or other product. Marketing experts say a grass-roots campaign involving pamphlets and mailers is not only cheaper, it's more effective.

``The most important thing is to reassure the bank's own customer base, and that's most effectively done through direct communication,'' said Carole Hassell, a senior vice president at Ketchum Inc., a New York public relations company hired by Bank of America to help develop a Y2K communications strategy.

-- y2k dave (, August 02, 1999


The banks are NOT ready. They are still testing and making fixes, which they will continue to do through the end of this year and into the next.

What a load of tripe...


-- Roland (, August 02, 1999.


-- Jack (, August 02, 1999.

I agree with you guys - total BS.

-- Dan G (, August 02, 1999.

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