Banks, Brokerages Relatively Glitch Free

FRAMINGHAM (01/01/2000) - Y2K or not, automated teller machines continue to spit out cash around the world.

Meanwhile, Wall Street has reported just a handful of small Y2K-related problems thus far.

Still, the financial services industry isn't out of the woods just yet. The coming week will provide another test to see whether banks and brokerages can balance accounts and process stock trades.

Only a couple of minor Y2K-related incidents have been reported to the Securities Industry Association's Y2K command center here. For example, one exchange discovered a few incorrect stock price values (i.e. a stock priced at $3,500 per share instead of $35), according to a spokeswoman for the New York-based trade association, which represents more than 700 brokerages, stock exchanges and other market participants.

But Y2K hasn't resulted in any operational problems for Wall Street firms that are otherwise "ready for business" come Monday, Jan. 3, she said. That's when U.S. financial markets will open again and face their first test of trying to execute and settle trades in the new year. SIA's Y2K command center will continue to monitor the U.S. securities industry through Jan. 7, by which time any financial transactions entered as of Jan. 3 will have been settled and cleared.

The world's biggest brokerage, Merrill Lynch & Co., also reported no problems, according to a company spokeswoman. The New York-based firm will continue to monitor its administrative, trading and other systems over the weekend before facing its next big milestone -- the opening of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange at 8:30 p.m. EST on Sunday, Jan. 2.

Officials at the New York Stock Exchange and the National Association of Securities Dealers Inc. in Washington, which runs the Nasdaq Stock Market, reported no problems with their trading or regulatory systems. Even though things have been quiet at Nasdaq and the American Stock Exchange, NASD will continue to keep some 330 IS and other workers at its five response centers to monitor various systems over the weekend.

'Bored' Bankers

The Y2K watch at Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce has been "totally boring," said John Burns, vice president of projects for the Toronto-based institution.

Despite widespread threats that hackers might try to siphon money from banks online during the year 2000 transition, officials at CIBC and other banks such as Fleet Financial Corp. in Boston and First Union Corp. in Charlotte, N.C., said they haven't witnessed any suspicious activity.

Burns, who has spent most of New Year's Day checking in with Canadian banking regulators and the Canadian Bankers Association with status reports, said that despite initial concerns about consumers making a run on cash, withdrawal activity by the bank's 6 million-plus customers has actually been lower than expected

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