Feditorial: Preparation + Communication = Extermination of CDC Bug

W. LeGrande Rives

With the clock ticking closer and closer to the end of the century, many of us are quickly reaching Century Date Change (CDC) saturation. Airwaves, newsprint and web sites are cluttered with dire warnings about the potential for Year 2000 computer failures. We in banking have an opportunity and obligation to send a positive message regarding our industry's CDC readiness. Indeed, besides solving a computer problem, financial institutions must also deal with a perception problem among their customers. Overcoming this obstacle will take a great deal of work. I believe the industry must take two steps to meet this challenge.

First, we must make sure that our systems are thoroughly tested. You are, no doubt, aware of the emphasis the Federal Reserve has placed on the CDC issue because of the potential impact on the financial services industry. We are executing an extensive Century Date Change initiative to prepare our own internal systems. But the continued strength of our industry depends on financial institutions proactively renovating and testing their own internal systems and external interfaces. Since June 27, 1998, we have been testing with our customers and will continue to test into late 1999. We strongly encourage customers who have electronic connections with the Federal Reserve to test with us. It is promising to note that we have had no CDC problems reported by our customers as a result of these tests.

Our other important task is to diminish public anxiety by communicating frequently and concisely with our customers. The Fed is continuing to keep you informed regarding our progress. Because you are on the front line with your customers, it is essential that you, in turn, inform them about your organization's sense of readiness. Your effort in sending a positive message or calming a nervous customer reduces the likelihood of a perception problem as we approach Jan. 1, 2000.

I urge you to keep in touch with your CDC coordinators to ensure all preparations are proceeding on schedule. Thorough testing and effective communication will eliminate the CDC bug and your customers' concerns.

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