A technology blog for The Economist Group IT team

Friday, January 06, 2006


Well that may not be the reason, but the results are the same. Two Japanese investment banks have been stung by typo’s in the last few weeks. The latest was Nikko CitiGroup, a hapless employee decided to buy two shares in Nippon Paper at £2,515 each, unfortunately he got it wrong. He ended up buying 2,000 of them, so £10,000,000 later he ended up owning 0.2% of the company. The internal checks to ensure the employee had enough cash failed, the bank is vowing nobody will be fired for it. The other was slightly larger, an employee of Mizuho Securitees sold 610,000 shares for 1 yen, rather than 1 share at 610,000 yen. Total loss around £200,000,000. Ooops! Get a copy of today’s Times for a better explanation of the events.

Goes to show that typo’s can have serious impact and may not always be spotted until it is far too late. Same applies to IT, how many errors are out there. Nasa say 10-12 per 1,000 lines for software in mission critical system. They got it down to 0.11 per 1,000 for the space shuttle. The cost however was $1,000 per line. So for a 10,000 line system there would be 833 errors. So thought for the day, how many in a non mission critical system? How many erros caused by typo's?

This story has more of an IT slant to it. Fujitsu provide the software that runs the Tokyo Stock Exchange and trading had to be halted for 90 minutes earlier in the year because of a failure.

The Mizuho case highlighted a further problem with the system whereby traders cannot cancel sell orders while the the system is taking buy orders.

In the end, those that commission systems are ultimately responsible and so the President of the exchange and several other members of the board took the rap and resigned.
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