A communications center for financial company exchanges of information about potential year-2000 problems was opened in New York this week.

Until Jan. 7, or longer if necessary, the Financial Services Coordination and Communication Center is to gather information from key industry sources and offices of emergency management in New York and Chicago. A program of the Securities Industry Association, it is posting status messages on bulletin boards at a secured Web site.

The program is open to broker/dealers, asset managers, banks, mutual fund companies, and other financial institutions. About 700 companies have registered for the center, which is accessible through the sia.com home page. In case the Web site fails, recorded telephone messages relaying site information are to be made available to registered users.

John Panchery, the association's year-2000 project manager, described the center as an information hub. Its data are collected from and reported through all the financial regulatory agencies, including the Federal Reserve Board, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

Other reporting bodies include exchanges, market-data vendors, computer service providers, payment systems, electronic communications networks, and trade associations. At scheduled times they are to submit reports that the association will post in summary form.

"All the reporting entities are expected to do health checks from Dec. 31 until Jan. 4," Mr. Panchery said.

Bank holding companies are to report to their regulator, the Federal Reserve. It is up to entities such as the Fed and the Securities and Exchange Commission to disclose and discuss problems as they arise, Mr. Panchery said.

"The regulators are expecting their firms to tell them what's happening on a firm-by-firm basis," he said. "That's not the charter" of the communications center.

The reported information is to flow from the center to the SEC and ultimately to the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion.

To get information from overseas, the center is to link itself to international conference calls that have been scheduled by the Global 2000 Coordinating Group starting Dec. 31. It also will use the United Nations' Web site.

The communications center in the Depository Trust Co. building in New York's financial district began operating Monday during normal business hours. From Dec. 30 to Jan. 5 about 65 trained volunteers will handle calls, update the Web site, and pass on information in round-the-clock shifts. The center is to revert to normal hours Jan. 6 and continue to operate as long as required.

"We should be ready by Jan. 3," Mr. Panchery said. "I guess we're lucky this is happening over a weekend. We have two days to put out any fires."

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