Canadian banks confident they're ready for Y2K : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread


[Fair use/educational purposes]

OTTAWA, Nov 26 (Reuters) - The woman overseeing Y2K preparations for Canada's bankers already knows what she is going to say when the phone rings at midnight on December 31: ``All is well, happy new year from Canada's banks.''

Karen Michelle, director of Y2K at the Canadian Bankers Association, said the country's 53 banks are confident it will be business as usual when the clock ticks into the year 2000, along with thousands of bank computer chips.

``In Canada, the banks have been working on Y2K since 1995...they are considered to be world leaders in terms of preparation for the year 2000,'' Michelle said. ``All of (our) systems have been tested, have been rolled over into a year 2000 environment, and they are ready for the new year.''

The Y2K problem, or ``millennium bug,'' refers to potential shutdowns or disruptions in computers programmed to read only the last two digits in a year. That could make them unable to tell whether the date advances to 2000 or recedes to 1900 at midnight on December 31, 1999.

Michelle said Canada's banking industry has cooperated to ensure that connected systems within the financial sector, those that handle direct deposits, credit card transactions and check processing, for instance, all work together.

In August, tests of widely used, industry-wide systems such as Interac went off without a hitch. Interac is responsible for the network that links 24,788 automated banking machines and more than 425,000 point-of-sale debit card terminals across Canada.

Visa and Mastercard, the credit cards issued by Canadian banks, have also passed the Y2K readiness test.

The banks will have an extra buffer, a long weekend, to start the new year with. Financial markets will be closed in Canada on Monday, January 3 for the New Year's statutory holiday. That will give banks more breathing room to reset any disabled systems.

The risk, it now seems, lies with their customers. If Canadians fear their banks are not a safe place to stash their cash over the new year, a surge of withdrawals could turn into a full-blown financial crisis if demands cannot be met.

The country's central bank, the Bank of Canada, has prepared for such a run on money. It is the lender of last resort to the commercial banks -- and the government itself. It also prints the money and guards the nation's gold reserves.

While assuring Canadians that it will not be disrupted by Y2K, the central bank has quadrupled its cash reserves, printing new bank notes as usual and stockpiling old ones to ensure there is enough money to go around at year-end. Across the country, distribution centres will hold larger-than-usual stockpiles of notes, and armoured car companies will be on standby for deliveries.

The central bank said it routinely keeps about C$6 billion of bank notes on hand to deal with public demand in peak periods -- the Christmas shopping season, for instance -- and in case of extraordinary circumstances. Those reserves will be boosted to C$23 billion by year-end.

``Because we are expecting business as usual in the financial sector, the substantial increase in bank note supplies that we are planning should be more than enough for any increase in demand that might arise,'' the bank said in a release on the Y2K concern.

The central bank has also prepared a command centre close to its Ottawa headquarters in case disruptions to electricity or phone lines or other infrastructure hampers normal operations. An emergency generator has been installed to power the centre if regular electricity gives out. The bank already uses duplicate phone lines, from different providers, and has emergency power sources, to guard against disruptions.

Among the central bank's most important operations are supplying currency, settling financial transactions, and acting as a fiscal agent for the government.

The command centre, constructed in the Ottawa region on property already owned by the bank, will replicate systems already in place at bank headquarters to transfer large payments or intervene in financial markets worldwide.

The Bank of Canada will be overstaffed around the clock over the New Year's weekend, and staff have been trained in manual methods of doing their jobs -- like using a pencil and paper -- if the need arises.

($1-$1.47 Canadian)

((Reuters Ottawa Newsroom, 613-235-6745, fax 613-235-5890))

Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.

-- Steve (, November 26, 1999


One thing she is avoiding mentioning in their happy Y2K New Year schlock is that despite massive, record-shattering profits by the BIG 5 banks this year (their FY is all Oct 31), they are planning to lay off tens of thousands of bank employees over the next 2 years--6000 by the Royal Bank alone.

HO HO HO. And a Happy F****** New Year to them, too!

-- profit of doom (, November 26, 1999.


Tuesday, November 23, 1999

Y2K ready or not, it's here Those in the trenches remain cautious

Jonathan Chevreau Financial Post

With the airing this weekend of NBC's controversial Y2K movie we are now in the end-game of distinguishing between Y2K reality and fiction.

As an occasional reader of media critic Noam Chomsky, I have long held a jaundiced view of the media's acceptance of self-reported "Y2K- ready" statements from corporations and governments.

Whose word would you trust: Bill Clinton's or Matt Drudge's? Exactly. Mr. Drudge, by the way, reported the movie was a ratings bust.

In an essay in the Nov. 22 issue of Computerworld (see Y2K author Ed Yourdon comments on the emergence of a few "Y2K whistleblowers" who have questioned the official Y2K-OK claims of their companies.

Some weeks back, I asked Canadian computer programmers in the trenches if they had discerned a "disconnect" between the reality they experience and the official public relations statements.

Here are some responses:

- "There is a kind of censorship in place these days. Even to discuss the possibility of serious problems from Y2K is to invite ridicule. Those doing the ridiculing do not appear to have sufficiently wide knowledge of both global information systems and global economics to justify their certainty. The only honest answer is that no one can predict what will happen with any certainty. Hence, all scenarios are still plausible, if not equally probable."

- "You are right to be skeptical. There is more of a problem than public communications would have you believe. There is a prevailing attitude that could be called going through the motions, which results in staff not being as tenacious as they should be in searching out possible problems ... Also, there is a false sense of security when the utilities say they are ready and yet they cannot be too certain of their essential suppliers who in turn are dependent on their customers as well as suppliers."

- "Is there a disconnect between the troops, and upper management? Absolutely. Don't accept any claims of 'year 2000 ready' until Jan. 1, 2000 has passed !

"Upper management demanded this shop be Y2K ready by June 1st. About 95% of everything was deemed ready by then, based upon minimal testing, claims from software vendors, and sign-offs from development areas.

"Once the initial flag went up that 'we think we are ready' the press guys and upper management began shouting that all critical systems are year 2000 ready.

"In reality, application testing with year 2000/leap year dates was performed with simulated, not real, system dates ... and major date- related issues appeared within critical business applications after claims of readiness.

"Upper management is aware of recent problems that have resulted in sudden year 2000 non-compliance issues. It's interesting that no one will retract our claims of readiness. Are the guys running the show listening, or are they being insulated from the truth? I'm guessing they don't want to know about reality."

The proof of the pudding is in the personal preparations of these programmers. In the above case, "like most other IT [information technology] people I know, we've stocked up on supplies, and we are considering a quick exit to the cottage should Jan. 1 go badly."

From Canadian bank employees came the following responses:

- "Those above me want you to believe that everything is Y2K okey- dokey but in the systems and network departments the view is not so rosy."

- "I'm certain the banks collectively will find a big giant head to speak for the industry as a whole in the near future. However, I worry that the information may not be accurate or may be misleading."

This bank's Web site is providing a guarantee that money is safe with them but "that won't help most of us if we are unable to access it after 2000. Unofficially they state they are obtaining additional funds to cover off people who want cash but is there really that much cash available? A run on the banks has to be one of their prime fears.

"I will be onsite early afternoon on Dec. 31 to prepare for problems from the Far East. The problem I may face is that of futility because if things outside of our control fail, say power or telecommunications, then utilizing a disaster site gives me the same problem only at an alternate site that has nicer furniture."

- This source has been a programmer since 1965, mostly COBOL on large IBM systems.

"The trouble with fixing up older programs is that there's no limit on the number of lines of source code COBOL compilers can handle. A lot of Y2K bugs are getting missed. Hope these aren't on mission- critical systems. I am still preparing for power outages and temporary shortages."

How can we apply this to our personal financial situations? It still tells me we should make contingency plans and preparations for disruptions of between a week and a month in duration. And on our investments, it seems to call for at least a Y2K agnostic stance, which would be the equivalent of a balanced mutual fund: some cash and bonds to buffer stocks or equity fund holdings.


-- John Whitley (, November 26, 1999.

John, do you have a link to the above post?

As one who has been on the "front lines", it's safe to assume that all "happy-faced" PR statements need to be taken with a rather large grain of salt. Not that a lot of work isn't getting done. Very few people I've worked with in the "trenches" (at least the ones who have contemplated the "larger picture" of the supply chains, etc.) share the optimism as reported to the media.

The PR machinery exists to quash or spin anything that deviates from the "party line". That most people accept it as truth attests to their mastery.

-- Steve (, November 26, 1999.


I remembered seeing that article this past Tuesaday, so I simply went here....

National Post web site

...and typed 'Y2K' into the 'search' box on the left-hand side of that page, then scrolled down through the results I got - I think it was the third item down on the resulting list. It displays without its own original page URL, which is why you'll have to follow these steps to get to it.

-- John Whitley (, November 27, 1999.

Couldn't find it, but I found this gem, which is probably worthy of a separate thread:

Comedy Network searches for worst joke

TORONTO (CP) - The Comedy Network is betting others are fed up with millennium fever, too. So as part of its Kiss Your Sorry Ass Goodbye Y2K campaign, the specialty channel wants to send one of its viewers to Hell.

Here's how it works. Viewers are being asked to submit a video of them telling what they feel is the worst, most hellish joke of the millennium. Three finalists will be selected and aired next month, after which viewers can phone or e-mail in their favourite.

The winner will be announced Dec. 17 on Open Mike With Mike Bullard and will get a free trip for two to the Grand Cayman Islands - where the village of Hell really exists.

-- Steve (, November 27, 1999.

the worst, most hellish joke of the millennium

I nominate Peter de Jager's statement that a couple of cans of Campbell's soup and 7-11 will get you through Y2K :).

-- John Whitley (, November 27, 1999.

Ummm...John, isn't it a bit premature to be deriding de Jager's preparation advice? After all, for all but the most vociferous pessimists, a BITR is still possible. N'est-ce pas?

-- Johnny Canuck (, November 27, 1999.

Ummm...John, isn't it a bit premature to be deriding de Jager's preparation advice? After all, for all but the most vociferous pessimists, a BITR is still possible. N'est-ce pas?

Of course DeJager should be derided.
He may be contributing to the loss of millions of lives. If he's lucky and the unkown that happens ISN'T disastrous, that makes him no less guilty of telling people NOT TO PREPARE. He, as a considered 'expert', has chosen to tell people not to wear a life jacket, not to take precautions.

If Y2K yields what looks more likely, as in widespread calamity, DeJager shall be finished, literally or humbly.

-- Better (late, November 27, 1999.

I have a friend who works for CIBC, one of the Major Canadian Banks, (the one Joe Boivin co-ordinated the Y2K work for). According to him, the bank had fixed and tested all their own systems as of the end of 98. They were then proceeding to the interoperability testing which they completed by the end of July. I believe the Canadian Banks are the best prepared financial institutions in the world, so they do not concern me greatly. Herstatt risk is something else, however.

-- just whistling dixie (, November 27, 1999.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ