Systems Switchover: Chase Absorbs WaMu

[corrected on June 26, 2009]


I've been dreading this day ever since Chase took over Washington Mutual last fall in the midst of Great Meltdown. What has me wondering if I'm going to wake up on July 26 to my own personal ecomomic hell was summed up nicely by last October:

Online banking, user names and passwords will also stay as is. Direct deposits, automated payments and transfers should continue uninterrupted.

I like the optimism of the phrase "should continue uninterrupted." In fact, this whole process has been filled with nothing but sunny prognostications of Chase IT department triumph and promises of a smooth transition. Fear not, customer, you won't lose access to your money. Your bills will continue to be paid. And if you're as fortunate as I am to be paid via direct deposit on the very day the transition happens, don't sweat it.

Well, I'm sweatin' it. In fact, I'm surprised there hasn't been a run on deposits at least as substantial as the one that happened to the tune of $16.7 billion last September when it looked certain that WaMu was going to go down as the biggest bank failure in U.S. history.

Think about it. Millions of transactions will have to be managed by a new system at the proverbial flick of a switch. Not that banks don't do this all the time--they do. Heck, WaMu itself absorbed 29 financial institutions between 1990 and 2006. But--and Risk Factor readers, please correct me if I'm wrong--nothing on this scale has ever been attempted between two commercial banks.

So stay tuned. And if on July 26 you hear hundreds of thousands of people cursing like sailors at computers, ATMs, and swipe pads, you'll know that a monumental failure is upon us. If, on the other hand, all goes smoothly, someone needs to buy those Chase programmers a few bottles of bubbly.



Risk Factor

IEEE Spectrum's risk analysis blog, featuring daily news, updates and analysis on computing and IT projects, software and systems failures, successes and innovations, security threats, and more.

Robert Charette
Spotsylvania, Va.
Willie D. Jones
New York City