Banks in metropolitan New York and elsewhere in the country creaked back into action Wednesday after widespread branch closures and some ATM problems related to Tuesdays disaster.
And while politicians and industry officials sent out messages that the countrys financial system is resilient and remained operational, the financial infrastructure reported some modest effects as borrowers reacted to the tragic news.
Comptroller of the Currency John D. Hawke Jr. acknowledged that there was increased activity by customers withdrawing funds from banks on Tuesday and Wednesday, but said he didnt think it was a serious problem. There have been greater-than-usual requests for withdrawals, but bankers have handled that extremely well, Mr. Hawke said.
In addition, he said, there had been a few instances where people wanted to take out large amounts of money, but that has been very sparse, as far as we can tell.
The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston issued a statement that all check clearing services and the Automated Clearinghouse were working. But the normal flow of return items may be delayed, the bank cautioned.
Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Don Powell said Wednesday that federal regulators had detected no major problems. I think it is important to remember that FDIC is not a building in Washington - it is a financial asset people can depend upon, Mr. Powell said in an interview.
But other sources were not as optimistic. Although the banking system is in great shape, one short-term effect will be a break in the financial payment and settlement systems, said Eugene Ludwig, managing partner with Promontory Financial Group and a former comptroller of the currency under President Clinton.
Having the markets closed abruptly and Wall Street disrupted in this way has payment settlement repercussions, said Mr. Ludwig. Getting all the pieces back together is a little like getting the airline system restarted once it is shut down - its a very complex matter.
J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Citigroup Inc., and other banking companies with Manhattan headquarters reported that most of their branches and ATMs were functioning, at least north of the lower Manhattan district, closed to business by order of New York Mayor Rudolph Guiliani.
Nearly all of our ATM network is up and running, said a J.P. Morgan Chase official who asked not to be named.
Citigroup issued a statement Wednesday saying, For the most part, it is business as usual for many of our businesses in North America and around the world.
On Tuesday, customers reported malfunctioning at some Citibank ATMs and low cash levels at some ATMS, including those operated by J.P. Morgan Chase, as cash delivery trucks had problems getting through the clogged city.
A Citibank official said there were no system problems in our ATM network.
As the smoke from the collapsed buildings clung to lower Manhattan on Wednesday, bankers were realizing that some feared problems, such as a run on the banks, had not occurred.
Wayne Veselsky, group senior vice president for commercial banking at LaSalle Bank in Chicago, said the main concern there was having enough cash for its banks. The thing you worry about is are they going to want a lot of cash out in the suburbs, Mr. Veselsky said. When he checked on his supplies of cash and coin Wednesday, the bank was fine. Were in good shape, he said.
But it was hardly business as usual for banking companies across the United States.
Bank of New York had to close its headquarters building, at 1 Wall St., not far from the World Trade Center site. Some J.P. Morgan Chase ATMs had communications problems. And customers in New York reported that some the stand-alone ATMS, usually found in convenience stores, were out of order.
Life will never be the same here, commented Pamela Plehn, a spokeswoman for HSBC Marine Midland.
The Buffalo banking company, a unit of the British banking giant HSBC Holdings PLC, has just completed moving its employees to midtown Manhattan from a building in the city at 140 Broadway, just blocks from the World Trade Center site. All of HSBCs branches except those in lower Manhattan were open Wednesday.
Meanwhile back in Washington, the four banking and thrift regulators formed an interagency group to monitor any problems within the financial system, and to determine appropriate action should difficulties emerge.
The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston said it would arrange for contingency ground transportation of checks where possible if the Federal Aviation Administration did not lift its ban on U.S. air travel.
The FAA grounded all aircraft after four planes were hijacked and three of them were crashed into the Pentagon and the World Trade Center.
The OCCs Mr. Hawke said that a potential effect of the attacks might be an increased focus on security and back-up systems at institutions, including multiple redundancies to ensure that files cannot be lost at a single location. But he said that the banking system is strong in the face of the crisis.
And even though the stock markets were closed, the government-sponsored agencies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were open for business on Wednesday.
Fannie Maes critical business operations remained open yesterday, and we are open for business today. The funding desk is operational and we are responding to dealers and investors, said Fannie Mae chairman Franklin Raines.
The confusion in the markets did cause Fannie Mae to cancel or postpone several events. The weekly Benchmark Bills auction, scheduled for Wednesday, was canceled, and todays scheduled issuance of Callable Benchmark Notes was postponed.
Fannie Maes sister institution, Freddie Mac, issued a similar press release, reporting that all of its offices are open and fully staffed. We are dedicated to providing stable, ongoing support for U.S. homeownership nationwide, said Leland Brendsel, chairman and chief executive officer.
Banks in and around Washington, which encountered a shutdown of city services and many businesses after an airliner hit the Pentagon, reopened for business Wednesday.
McLean, Va.-based Riggs Bank had closed its branches at 1 p.m. Tuesday, but all branches and ATMs were operating normally Wednesday, said Mark N. Hendrix, chief marketing officer of the $5 billion-asset bank. We have certainly had many customer inquiries, particularly from international customers, he said.
Banking companies in the Southeast that had closed many branches and landmark office buildings were back to business. Wachovia, which had shuttered all 2,900 branches in its 11-state territory, reopened them Wednesday morning.
A spokesman for Washington Mutual Inc. said the Seattle thrift giant did see an uptick in the amount of money that consumers were taking out of its automated teller machines, but that we were able to meet those needs.