Union Planters Corp. has already had its New Year's Eve party, and not just because many of the bank's employees will be working on the night. The $33.1 billion-asset Memphis-based bank wants to reinforce to its customers the message borne on its publicity materials: Y2K, We're Okay. To that end, it hosted a sort of New Year's party on Sept. 9 in a branch where a cross-section of its customers withdrew paper money and did other transactions as if it were January 3.

Managing customers' perceptions of the millennial date change is arguably banks' main focus as we face the final countdown to the year 2000. Computer systems have been fixed to accommodate a new century's designation, tests have been run, third-party businesses have been checked out, and contingency plans put in place. Now, it's wait and see, all the while keeping a finger on the consumer's pulse.

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