Disaster recovery planning is moving to the top of banks' year-2000 agendas.

Failures - whether internal or at outside sites, such as power generators or the postal network -need to be considered, said speakers at the Bank Administration Institute's recent Y2K Summit in Orlando. They also warned of rushes on automated teller machines.

"We need to determine how to keep businesses running when we have glitches," said Rosalie Stremple, business recovery services client executive at Key Services Corp., a subsidiary of KeyCorp. She recommended identifying risks specific to 2000 and setting priorities but not "reinventing the wheel."

"Just treat it like you're preparing for a snowstorm for which you've" been prewarned, she said. "Use existing plans, and reference into these plans."

Scenarios that should be considered include: internal outages that would affect the bank's outside parties, such as customers or trading partners; slowdowns in the Federal Reserve's processing of checks; and unreliable mail deliveries.

She said questions worth asking include: "Where are we likely to fail? What is our survival time? Could we go 16 hours without processing a loan application?"

KeyCorp is undergoing a four-step process, she said. It includes:

Analyzing all functions and rating business units by their criticality and dependency.

Determining the readiness of each application.

Devising action plans with "trigger" dates to begin monitoring certain applications.

Writing contingency plans in case utilities go out.

"We're talking about the visibility to customers and the financial impact" of problems, Ms. Stremple said.

Marianne Lester, examination specialist at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. in Washington, warned that a public panic could drain cash from automated teller machines. She said banks would need to staff up branch lobbies to help customers gain access to accounts.

"We suggest studying cash withdrawal patterns in the past, particularly during disasters or peak seasons," Ms. Lester said. "Some banks have said they would try to estimate the cash demands of their top customers."

Banks may want to do real-life simulations of power outages or similar events. A cheaper alternative would be to do "table-top exercises" with role-playing at each branch, Ms. Lester said.

First Union Corp. is doing contingency planning by line of business, said Teri Burgett, Y2K task force consultant at the bank.

Having gathered specialists from its disaster recovery and crisis management departments, Ms. Burgett said, "First Union is working now on the structure of our command centers, leveraging off the command centers we've used for mergers.

"The difference is, now we're bringing in all the business units. We need to have a backup system to the central command center for tracking and communication."

Managers will evaluate potential triggers, declare implementation plans, and simulate the date change process, she said.

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