First Union Corp. is shifting its attention to human aspects of its year-2000 preparation.
"We have never had every application in First Union potentially affected on the same day," said Austin A. Adams, executive vice president of the technology and operations group.
But with 70 million lines of code and 69 mission-critical applications tested, modified, and certified by June 30, Mr. Adams said, he is now less worried "about the technical aspect than about human behavior." So the banking company is turning its efforts toward customer education and employee awareness.
"If our communication is not crisp," Mr. Adams said, "customers will visit branches, and if there are teller lines, there will be a perception of a Y2K problem."
The Charlotte, N.C., company began a customer awareness campaign in September that includes messages on statements, on automated teller machine screens, and on receipts, plus a hotline that has received 15,000 calls this year. Employees have given more than 300 presentations to community groups since 1996. An internal television network has been broadcasting training sessions to update employees on year-2000 developments.
Starting in December, the company will monitor cash availability at ATMs daily. The machines will be dispensing only $20 bills instead of $10 denominations, so that they can hold more money. The company also will increase by 30% the amount of cash in its branches.
"We expect there to be heavier demands for cash and greater volumes in check cashing and debit activity," Mr. Adams said.
He said he expects a 30% to 50% increase in customer inquiries. First Union Direct, the call center that employs 3,000 people, is preparing to cope with heavier volume. In addition, the company's 2,200 financial centers will have additional staff members and offer extended hours, which will be decided upon state-by-state, for the weeks before and after Jan. 1.
Eighteen control centers are to operate around the clock from Dec. 27 through Jan. 10, monitoring the status of operations and coordinating communications.
On Monday, the $235 billion-asset company imposed a "code freeze," lasting through Feb. 1, which puts a stop to discretionary changes in computer applications and to the adoption of new ones.
First Union has spent $65 million since 1996 remedying its systems. "The singularity of our application system" helped keep these costs down, Mr. Adams said. The acquisitive First Union has had a policy to convert the systems of all acquired banks to a single platform.
First Union hired International Business Machines Corp. to supply disaster recovery services for its mainframe systems and has ordered backup power generators.
"Financial services is not an island," Mr. Adams said. "We and the population could be impacted by the failure of major utilities, principally power and telecommunications."