The Bank has created a Y2K Task Force comprising senior management to monitor Y2K progress on a massive scale

August 30 - Sep 05, 1999


"Habib Bank Ltd (HBL), the largest commercial bank of Pakistan is well positioned to address the far-reaching implications of the year 2000 issues in the field of Informational Technology."

This was stated by Shujat Ali Baig, Senior Vice President and Divisional Head of HBL while talking about the Banks efforts to deal with the challenges of the next century specially the immediate issue of Y2K which is globally related to the banking system.

According to Shujat, HBL has created a Y2K Task Force comprising HBL senior management to monitor Y2K progress on a massive scale. To manage and coordinate with Y2K activities we have created a Y2K project team that is responsible for IT and non-IT related issues for domestic and overseas operations.

"The Bank has provided a high degree of commitment and resources to ensure centralized coordination of Y2K projects and is making all out efforts to ensure that there would be no advance impact on our business or our customers."

Shujat further said: "Habib Bank IT group's role is to provide the technological platform that would carry the Bank through to the next millennium. Our teams of computer professionals provide development and operational support to ensure that visions become a reality," he observed.

Recalling the efforts for establishment of its Computer Division in 1960s, Shujat said that Habib Bank embarked upon its vision to become Pakistan's leader in the computerization of banking system.

In an effort to keep up with the pace of modern technology in all respects, the Bank's leadership in information technology penetrated throughout the public and private sectors with the provision of technical support and development resources to a large number of national and multi-national organizations.

Today as the new millennium approaches, HBL is in a unique position to provide top-class services to its customers. In December 1997, the System Development Division was born out of our computer operations division in order to organize the IT group along the functional lines. The result has been the streamlining of computer operations through nine computer centres all over the country and the computerization of 100 per cent of the application system. Presently HBL has managed to computerize more than 60 key branches domestically with an online real-time banking system that was developed in-house. Keeping in line with our vision of the continued computerization of Retail Banking operations, the IT group has embarked on a programme to computerize a total of 150 key branches domestically with MOBS by December 1999.

Our goal is to develop the largest Retail Banking network in the country. Overseas banking operations at 60 branches in 22 countries have been fully computerized with the latest hardware and software technology. We have also computerized the systems of the controlling offices in order to streamline the collection and consolidation of financial data from the branch to the head office level.

The new management of HBL is committed to the utilization of the latest technology in the industry. They have aggressively supported a strategy of Office Automation through the purchase of more than 700 PCs in the last few years. We have also replaced the main servers at all computer centres country-wide. This increased processing power will enable us to process Retail Banking transactions for more than 1600 Batch Branches on a daily basis as opposed to a weekly basis, there by increasing service to the customers.

To support the Banks progressive strategy, the communications division was established in 1992 with a mandate to implement the latest advancements in commercial telecommunication technology to make HBL as the leader in the financial service sector.

Today HBL is in the process of acquiring a new International Banking Package that will be supported by a truly online and secure data communication networking country-wide. This new package will not only provide online banking services, but also tele-banking/ call centre customer services, Internet Banking and other Web-based customer services, e-mail facilities and in-house dedicated Tele/video conferencing.

As the first bank in Pakistan, to install ATM machines in the early 80s , the HBL commitment continues with the establishment of a country-wide online ATM network, capable of providing anytime any where nation-wide self-banking services to ATM customers.

HBL's new generation of ATM machines will also facilitate ATM sharing across different banks providing added convenience to the customers. As the first Nationalized Bank to connect to the SWIFT network through a local access point HBL is now in a position to offer a 24-hour services for processing of remittances and L/Cs. This has greatly improved the services to the non-resident Pakistanis supporting families at home and the business community at large."


Corporates need to know more and act promptly to achieve Y2K compliance

The seminar arranged by Management Association of Pakistan should be an eye-opener for the public sector companies


Dr. Ijaz H. Khwaja, Director General, Pakistan Computer Bureau, said, "It is necessary for people to understand the Y2K issue and its implications to achieve compliance of a non-negotiable deadline." He also expressed apprehension about the claims made by various corporations that they had achieved Y2K compliance whereas they had not even prepared the list of their critical systems which need up-gradation. On top of this, some of the public sector companies do not have funds at their disposal to take the inventory of systems using embedded chips and to upgrade them. He was addressing a seminar on "Y2K — Consequences of Non-Compliance" organized by Management Association of Pakistan (MAP).

Aslam Farook, the Managing Director of Sui Southern Gas Company Limited (SSGC), said that corporate sector needs to give more attention to Y2K issue which would affect all in different manner. He also informed that SSGC has achieved Y2K compliance of all its critical systems. As against many other companies, Y2K compliance is mandatory for the gas company because it is responsible for purification of gas before distribution throughout the country. The Company is also responsible for transmissions and distributions of natural gas in Sindh and Balochistan provinces. Various systems are being tested to avoid any disruption in gas supply and contingency plans have been prepared to ensure uninterrupted supply of gas throughout the country. Dr. M. Z. Malkana, Senior General Manager, Information Technology of SSGC, presented details of measures taken by the Company to achieve Y2K compliance .

Mohammad Sarwar, General Manager, Computers, Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL), while expressing the importance of the issue, provided details of all the work done so far to achieve Y2K compliance by the company. PTCL falls in the category of those companies where Y2K compliance is mandatory to remain connected with all international players. PTCL has also achieved the compliance in most of the critical systems and contingency plans have also been worked out. The implication of non-compliance are serious because of its connectivity with countries falling in different time zones.

Akhlaqullah, General Manager (PPSP), KESC, said that the Corporation has identified the critical systems and making efforts to achieve Y2K compliance. It is also working on contingency and emergency plans to ensure un-interrupted electric supply to all its consumers.

Javed Merchant, I. T. Manager, ICI Pakistan, explained the Y2K issue to improve overall level of awareness of participants and also explained what had to be done to achieve Y2K compliance. He also talked about the work done at the Company to achieve compliance. Javed also emphasized that corporates should devote more time and energy to understand the issue and then upgrade all their critical systems at the earliest and should not wait till the last minute.

Towfiq H. Chinoy, Vice President of the Association, Chaired the seminar. Syed Masood Ali Naqvi, Chairman, Programme Committee of the Association, while thanking all the speakers and participants said, "This is the second seminar organized by MAP on this topic and Association would continue to disseminate information to all its members and others in the corporate sector about the key issues."

Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, chairman, Pakistan International Airlines, was expected to deliver the key note address at the seminar. However, he could not come due to 'some other engagements. This was not the first occasion that he conveniently avoided giving any details of work being done by the Airline. It has been reported that the Airline is, at present, spending around US$ 11,000 per day to a foreign consultant to meet the deadline of September 30, 1999 fixed by the Task Force on Y2K. It is apprehended that both Civil Aviation Authority and the national carrier would not be able to achieve Y2K compliance of their critical systems.