Worried Y2k could hurt U.S. banks? Bet on it

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Worried Y2k could hurt U.S. banks? Bet on it

Tuesday, November 02, 1999

By Patricia Sabatini, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

By now, almost everyone's heard the mantra that the nation's banks and thrifts have exterminated the Y2K computer bug. And that means there's no need for people to worry about big foul-ups in financial records, credit cards going berserk or ATMs going dark come Jan. 1.

So after apologizing for delivering the same ho-hum message during a stop-off at the Post-Gazette, Federal Reserve spokeswoman June Gates offered this tidbit: There's a site on the Internet where worrywarts who are still convinced that a Y2K catastrophe is looming can try to cash in on their fears -- by betting on them.

If you believe a Y2K fiasco will paralyze a big international bank such as Citicorp, for example, the Web site http://www.betonsports.com will take that bet at 700-to-1 odds.

Think a Y2K equipment failure will cause the Federal Reserve to shut down for at least 24 hours? Odds-makers put those chances at an even heftier 1,000-to-1.

Gates and her cohorts believe such bets would be foolhardy, of course, noting that "99.7 percent" of the nation's federally-insured financial institutions were ready for Y2K months ago.

Still, maybe people wouldn't fall asleep reading another soothing story about Y2K and how safe their money is if the stuff about the betting site were included.

And if they were to keep reading, maybe people would finally get the message that withdrawing big wads of cash to stuff under their mattresses just before the new millennium dawns would be silly and could be dangerous.

"My biggest concern is there will be some elderly folks who take a big chunk of money out of the bank in the last couple weeks of the year, and there will be people standing outside the bank ready to prey on them," said Steven Ackmann, president of BT Financial Corp., the Johnstown-based parent of Laurel Bank. Ackmann was tagging along with Gates yesterday as spokesman for the Pennsylvania Bankers Association, a trade group that's seeking to reinforce the Fed's comforting message.

Unsuspecting customers might be persuaded to hand over their cash to fast-talking shysters for safe-keeping, never to see their money again, Ackmann worried. Or worse yet, they could be hit over the head and robbed.

"The safest place is having your money in the bank," he said.

Conceding that many people will be withdrawing at least a little extra cash for the Year 2000 holiday weekend, banks will have lots of money on hand. The Fed plans to have a little extra stashed away, too. Still, there isn't enough currency in circulation if everyone were to decide to empty their accounts at once.

"We see the potential for problems if people act irrationally," Gates said. "But we don't expect that to happen."

"People shouldn't worry about the century date change and should just have a nice long New Year's weekend," Ackmann summed up.

"Enjoy the football games. And try to figure out how to remember to write 2000 on your checks," he said.

Any worriers left out there with questions can call the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.'s toll-free hotline at 1-877-FDIC-Y2K. Agents are standing by with more soothing words.

-- Homer Beanfang (Bats@inbellfry.com), November 02, 1999


I'll have to consider withdrawing all my money and betting it against the banking system...

(Unfortunately, gambling is illegal in Hawaii...and I'd be gambling that I'd ever get paid when I won!)

-- Mad Monk (madmonk@hawaiian.net), November 02, 1999.

LOL. I told my DGI parents that I'd take out a hefty life insurance policy on them if I had any confidence the financial institutions would be able to pay up. Needless to say, they weren't amused.

-- Y2KGardener (gardens@bigisland.net), November 02, 1999.

This is from Mr. May in his recent essay to Ed Yourdon:

Tell me what you think about banks--when you are finished reading!!

" A large bank can have 100,000 programs that run on 30 different platforms and use 50 different languages (type, vintage and compiler manufacturer). Make several thousand code changes across that base in something as ubiquitous as date processing in something like banking operations. Assume you detected ALL dates (you would be lucky if you found 90%) and made modifications PERFECTLY (have the best people been the ones doing this all along?; do you have the best tools?; for all environments?; do you have the best project management and configuration and version management capabilities AT THIS SCALE?). And that bank is on-line through the Fed to all other banks. How many errors will there be after making thousands of changes to a very large system of systems that no one really understands in detail?"

-- d.b. (dciinc@aol.com), November 02, 1999.

Hmmmm 700 to 1 Odds

Put down $10 and you get $7000 if it happens. Hey I like those odds and I can afford a measly $10 for the remote chance I'll make the $7000. Probably better odds than the Lottery.

But will I able to collect? $10 is still worth the chance that you will win and will be able to collect don't ya think?

Regards, Simon

-- Simon Richards (simon@wair.com.au), November 02, 1999.

I smell government shills behind these putative bets. Nobody in their right mind would take 1:700 bet on anything; there is NO upside.

-- Dave (aaa@aaa.com), November 03, 1999.

Betting on things is just 'aussie' for 'putting your money where your mouth is'(USA). They bet on anything and everything.

-- ..- (Dit@Dot.Dash), November 03, 1999.

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