It helps to have Y2K taken seriously by the big guys.
With mutual fund powerhouse Chase Global Mutual Funds Group planning to post more of its Y2K compliance information over the Web this month for public perusal, observers are saying the firm could set a precedent for the rest of the industry, which has been regularly criticized for keeping such information under wraps.
Twelve Point Rule, an interactive development company, will develop and run the online reporting system for Chase. The information will be available on all of the commercial Chase Mutual Fund sites. The move continues the firm's Y2K efforts that began two years ago, according to Chase.
Observers hailed the move by Chase as a positive one for the industry and hope other firms will follow.
"There won't be any choice," but to do this sort of thing, said Dennis Grabow, founder and CEO of the Millennium Investment Corporation. "Corporations are biding their time. Those that come forward now are going to be ahead of the game. I haven't seen many others doing this."
The Year 2000 problem, or the millennium bug, boils down to this: Many computer systems use software which tracks dates with only the last two numbers of the year, such as 97, instead of 1997. When 00 comes up for the year 2000, many computers will view it as 1900 instead, leading to potential failures.
Patches and upgrades to new systems are fine for businesses with packaged software, but for much of the older, custom software on mainframes and "hard-coded" software resident in cash registers and other systems, diagnoses and solutions will prove much more troublesome and costly.
Grabow, whose firm consults people on ways to protect their financial investments from Y2K disasters, said the decision by a company to post their efforts up on the Web makes the company look good in the eyes of regulators, business partners, and investors. "I think you'll see more firms follow Chase. It's a competitive issue. Those who get there first and have the best practices to share can leapfrog their competitors."
The move by Chase also looks good in the eyes of federal regulators who have begun cracking down on private investment houses for not reporting their Y2K status to the government.
The Securities and Exchange Commission last month charged 37 brokerage firms for failing to report the status of their Year 2000 technology problem preparedness as required by the federal government, the commission said.
"While SEC reporting is critical, Chase's customers also need to feel secure that their mutual fund company is ready for the Year 2000," Bryan Thatcher, CEO of Twelve Point Rule, said in a statement. "Each company has a different Y2K strategy as every internal IT system is different. It's important to provide easily accessible reports for customers that not only give information that Chase's systems are Year 2000 compliant, but show exactly what steps Chase is taking to comply."