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Local banks say they're prepared for Y2K

By By Sherry Digmon
Only one First National Bank customer has taken his money out the bank because of Y2K. He already put his money back in.
Nine out of 10 bank customers believe their banks are ready for the Year 2000, according to a new Gallup poll sponsored by the Federal Reserve and FDIC.
First National Bank, Regions Bank and United Bank are ready.
Preparations have not been a last-minute issue at the banks. Committees were formed as early as 1996 to deal with the possibility that the year 2000 would wreak havoc with the banks' computer systems.
"Our committee took several steps," said Mitch Staples, a member of the Y2K committee at United Bank. "We identified critical software packages. Then we rolled the dates forward and tested different scenarios with the date in the year 2000 with sample databases.
"Everything worked OK. We found no problems."
First National Bank went through a similar process.
"We tested all personal computers in the bank, and we tested the main frame," said Dale Hurst, who headed up the bank's Y2K committee. " … We have tested everything in this bank.
"We contacted all software vendors to make sure the software is compliant."
Jim Kizer said all systems are go at Regions Bank also.
"We sent out brochures to our customers and ran ads to let them know we're Y2K ready," Kizer said. "We have been testing for two years … We're all set."
But just in case there are problems, all three banks have a contingency plan, the chief plan being to return to a manual system.
First National Bank and United Bank have trained personnel on taking care of customers' banking needs through the old-fashioned paperwork system.
"All tellers have been trained on how to do everything by hand," Staples said. "If that's what we have to do, that's what we'll do."
Hurst has ordered extra supplies in case tellers have to resort to paperwork.
"If we lose power, we will operate manually until the power comes back on," Hurst said. "The employees who have never had to work manually have been trained. I've ordered ledgers and pencils and battery-powered lights.
"If we have problems, customers could anticipate having to wait a little longer in line, but not an unreasonable amount of time."
Regions Bank employees have not had to be retrained.
"Our people could already do things manually," Kizer said. "Our host computer is off-site and sometimes the computers go down. From time to time, we have had to do things manually. We've always had that capability."
Hurst said he anticipates problems only if the power fails.
"I am 100 percent confident our systems will work, but we must have electricity for them to work. Alabama Power assures me they are ready," he said.
While Regions Bank personnel are not scheduled to work over New Years weekend, other bank personnel will be working at least a few extra hours.
"The Information Systems Department would be working late anyway," Staples said, since Dec. 31 is month-end and year-end. "Someone from almost every department will come in sometime Saturday to check their computers. It's going to work. It's just precautionary.
"Certain systems will be tested at 12:05 a.m. New Years Day. By 7 a.m. Saturday, we'll have a completed checklist."
First National Bank will close at noon on Dec. 31 in order to get all year-end processing done before midnight.
"Every day that week and on Dec. 31, we will run a printout of every customer's balance," Hurst said. "Everyone will be on call Dec. 31 and Jan. 1. In case of a power failure, we will call everyone in to get prepared for Monday's business to be done manually."
All banks will be open for business Monday.
"Monday, Jan. 3, this bank will be open, unless the government says we can't open," Hurst said. "We owe that to the community. If we are able to be open, we'll be open.
"Sometimes you have to [stand] on faith. I have a lot of faith the bank is ready. I have a lot of faith Alabama Power is ready. If you've got electricity, everything else will fall into place."
Kizer said Regions Bank is all set for business Monday the third.
United Bank personnel are also ready.
"Anything that's in our control, we're ready for," Staples said. "The safest place for people's money is in the bank. It's insured. It's here. And we're ready."
Visit www.fdic.gov for a full report on Y2K banking information.