Jim Simmons, CEO of Sungard Availability Services

This is a partial transcript from Your World with Neil Cavuto, August 15, 2003, that was edited for clarity. Click here for complete access to all of Neil Cavuto's CEO interviews.

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NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: It was almost two years ago that America learned what it is means to be under attack and to respond to attack.

That fateful day taught us a great deal about ourselves and about security. But, how much of that did we learned and then ultimately put into practice?

My next guest says not really a heck of a lot. He’s Jim Simmons. He’s the CEO of Sungard Availability Services, which protects companies from dealing with calamities like these.

Jim, good to have you.


CAVUTO: What happened? I mean I thought we were ready for this type of thing, but scores of companies were not?

SIMMONS: I think it’s a situation that’s kind of multiple answer.

Part of it is it can’t happen to me, although this case proved that lightning can strike twice, as we’ve had clients that have enacted two years ago and enacted again on this time.

Part of it is the economic conditions.

And I think, finally, there is some realization that some companies have taken plans, but they’ve not used the right steps. We’ve got companies that called us and said I learned my lessons on Sept. 11 (search), I put in a plan, I took care of my people, they were supposed to go to a spare site I had across town.

Well, all of a sudden, guess what? Across town is out of business, and they’re back in working at Sungard today.

CAVUTO: You know, Jim, the problem is that, when they’re polled on this subject, a lot of executives acknowledge the problem.

I think when you take a look at executives and how they feel, what, about two out of five of them consider a telecommunications breakdown to be the biggest threat.

But the follow-up is what’s interesting. On average, executives give their company a grade of C plus in dealing with these kind of issues. What’s the deal?

SIMMONS: I think that’s kind of an honest assessment. A C plus -- if you’re a large financial institution -- is really a failing grade. It’s more of a pass/fail type environment if you’re admitting that you’re a C plus in your ability.

Some of the other factors that came out of a recent Harris poll study showed that 40 percent of the people felt that less than 10 percent of their staff would know what to do in the event of a disaster.

I think people are waking up to the importance of information availability, keeping people and information connected, and I think today’s and yesterday’s events prove that we haven’t done enough.

CAVUTO: But, clearly, I don’t know if they have the same sense of urgency. I mean separately in this poll, they say one out of three executives say their firm is only as prepared as it was prior to the September attacks of Sept. 11.

Following up on that, less than three in five have backup offices for workers who may be displaced in the event of a disaster such as what happened to the World Trade Center a couple of years ago.

So, after all of this, the upshot I’m getting, Jim, is that we haven’t done much.

SIMMONS: I would, certainly, have to agree with you that events such as Hurricane Floyd and Y2K and September 11 and yesterday’s have all kind of served as a level of awareness. Even the survey kind of proved CIOs and audit committees on board of directors are more aware.

But actually enacting the plans and making them work are something that these C-suite executives are saying I’m not sure that we’re quite up to snuff.

CAVUTO: Well, no, but, beyond that, they say I’m not quite sure if we have the money to be up to snuff, right? I mean isn’t that the biggest hurdle?

SIMMONS: I’m sure part of it are the economic conditions because people are watching IT budgets and infrastructure budgets very clearly. But it’s example of, you know, how you can depend on others to do it.

We’ve been able to build up a business over 25 years to where we have 90 percent of American businesses are within 35 miles of a Sungard center. The ability to have local access to this global infrastructure has allowed a lot of our clients, including the 67 that we’re covering today, get back up and running as quickly and painlessly as possible.

CAVUTO: Were more calling you today?

SIMMONS: Yes. We’ve had calls keep adding, although it’s been kind of slowing down. I expect it to sort of taper off.

CAVUTO: Jim, thank you very much.

Jim Simmons, the man who runs Sungard joining us out of Philadelphia.

Thank you, sir.

SIMMONS: Thank you, Neil.

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