A group of international financial regulators has created a Web site to track the progress of financial institutions around the world in achieving year-2000 compliance.
Besides helping to ascertain the financial world's readiness for 2000, the Joint Year-2000 Council expects the Web site to raise awareness and serve as an information clearing house.
A more subtle goal of U.S. banking regulators is to use the public display to exert peer pressure on foreign financial institutions. Many regulators are worried that banks in other countries are not adequately addressing the year-2000 problem, and their noncompliance could affect U.S. banks in international dealings.
Preparedness varies widely by country and generally is not known, said witnesses at a Monday hearing of the Senate Special Committee on the Year- 2000 Technology Problem. The Web site was announced at the hearing.
Witnesses, including Ernest T. Patrikis, the departing Federal Reserve Bank of New York first vice president, shied away from answering the committee's requests for assessments of specific nations.
Questioning Mr. Patrikis after his testimony, Sen. Robert F. Bennett, R- Utah, expressed concern about Japan's compliance and asked him where he would rank its preparedness.
Mr. Patrikis said that a Finance Ministry official who serves on the council has assured the regulators that his country is dealing with the problem.
"My sense is they are well aware and are working on it, but I can't say they are at the level we are," he said.
Countries participating in the Internet project will post Web pages containing contact information for government entities, financial industry supervisors and regulators, financial industry associations, payment, settlement, and trading systems, chambers of commerce, and major utility associations or supervisors.
The council has contacted more than 165 countries to participate. Two countries-South Africa and Lesotho-have posted information on the site so far.
"Establishing these national contacts will help to develop the informal networks and arrangements that may be needed in addressing other year-2000 issues, for example, in formulating contingency measures," said Mr. Patrikis, outgoing council chairman.
He added, "The country pages may exert pressure on those countries where more vigorous action is needed. A blank or uninformative country listing would probably not be seen as a good sign by some financial market participants."
The Web site will also outline efforts taken by the council's member organizations, as well as links to relevant Internet pages.
A data base from the Committee on Payment and Settlement Systems will be included. The data base contains testing start dates, as well as expected completion dates and external interfaces for payment and settlement systems in more than 50 countries.
The Joint Year-2000 Council is made up of representatives from the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, the International Association of Insurance Supervisors, the International Organization of Securities Commissions, and the Committee on Payment and Settlement Systems.