Although the computer business may be reeling from Intel Corp.'s Pentium chip snafu, many number-crunching banks around the country report no adverse affects.
An informal survey of a number of large financial institutions found that none had experienced problems with the high-performance computer chip that is contained in many of the latest personal computers.
But, just to be on the safe side, most are removing the machines from mission-critical tasks, as well as taking Intel up on its recently revised offer to replace the defective devices.
"Our people are going through department by department to see where the machines are and if there is a hint of problem or concern, the technology is being removed," said Craig Goldman, chief information officer at Chase Manhattan Bank in New York.
"We are moving people who are using Pentium technology to [Intel-based] 486 machines and waiting for the replacement chips to arrive,"
Mr. Goldman said of Chase's 29,000 personal computers, roughly 1,000 use Pentium processors, primarily for networking groups of personal computers in client-server applications.
"There has been very little exposure to the problem, because we just don't have a large number of machines in place," he said.
"Over time, we will continue to install the technology as it becomes clear that the problem has been fixed and the new chips become available."
Donald Hollis, executive vice president of operations at First Chicago Corp., said the bank holding company has stopped ordering new machines.
"At this time, we feel it is our best interest to wait until the dust settles before we order new machines," he said.
"None of our machines are running out of gas and until we are sure that everything is O.K., we will stick with what we have in place."
Mr. Hollis added that First Chicago is not questioning whether it should continue to buy Pentium-based PCs, but it is waiting for the redesigned chips to hit the market.
Paul Magle, director of technical services at Comtex Systems Inc., a computer consulting firm in New York, said for the most part the financial services industry uses Pentium-driven machines for risk management, securities trading desks, and in client-server networks.
A spokesman at Chemical Bank in New York said the institution is currently working with its technology vendor to replace the Pentium chips it is using.
Chemical has approximately 35,000 personal computers, of which only 500 are driven by Pentium engines.
"For the most part, we are a 486-based organization. However the Pentium machines that we do have will be replaced," the Chemical spokesman said. "We do not want to take any chances."
Chemical refused to say what areas of the bank are using Pentium technology, but insisted that the institution has had not experienced any problems with the chip.
William Milton, a securities analyst at Brown Brothers Harriman, said the Pentium error occurs in floating point division calculations when both the numerator and the denominator have certain number sequences.
"Both Intel and IBM agree when the errors occur," he said. "But they disagree on the frequency of the error and on the number of floating-point operations that are executed in a common financial spreadsheet application."
Intel has stated that it believes that the average spreadsheet user performs 1,000 floating-point operations a day and has concluded that a user will experience an error every 27,000 years.
IBM believes that the average spreadsheet user is capable of as many as 5,000 floating-point divisions a second and determined that the frequency of error becomes one in every 24 days.
In separate studies, a number of leading personal computer magazines have found that the error has a chance of occurring once every two months to 10 years.
Mr. Milton and other industry analysts declined comment on which study they thought was most accurate.
Through the fourth quarter of 1994, Intel has shipped over 2.8 million Pentium chips and will continue to ship the flawed chips through the first quarter, an Intel spokesman said.