February 19, 2009

Bank systems were not affected by Australia's devastating wildfires that claimed 200 lives and thousands of properties earlier this month, according to a technology vendor that is part owned by one of the country's biggest banks, National Australia Bank.

Although NAB is based in Melbourne, the city nearest to the fires that raged for days in southern Australia, the fires only came within an hour of city limits, Mike Aston chief executive of payments processer Distra, told BS&T in an interview. And, Australian banks typically have their disaster recovery centers in cities, added the CEO of Distra—a company in which NAB just took a 25 percent stake.

Although U.S. banks typically place their disaster recovery sites in rural areas, both for cheaper facilities and, in recent years, for fear of terrorist attacks directed at cities, in Australia it's the opposite, Aston said. "It wouldn't be good disaster recovery planning to place your back-up site in an area where bushfires are known to occur," he wryly observes.

NAB, Australia's biggest bank by assets, with Aus. $657 billion, or roughly $423 billion U.S., is nonetheless clearly affected by the fires that blackened 1,500 square miles of forests and farms in Victoria state.

A special resource center on NAB's home page, offers 'Victoria Bushfire Relief': measures such as Aus. $10,000 ($6,400) cash grants to damaged businesses; waivers of insurance excesses to claimants and expedited replacement bank cards.

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