The euro debuted in 1999, when the exchange rates of the 11 original participating currencies were set and the new currency and its symbol - € - started appearing in financial statements. Greece met the euro zone's budget requirements in 2001, which meant 12 countries traded in their local coins and bank notes for euro-denominated currency on January 1, 2002. The euro was set at €1 to $1.18, and has traded between there and $0.825 since, making the exchange rate more or less one-to-one.

So far, everything seems to be working. At Siemens VDO, ask an employee for a budget number and the answer is likely to be in euros. And why not? The advantages have been considerable:

Camp Dresser & McKee, a Cambridge, Massachusetts, environmental engineering consultancy, upgraded its project accounting and financial application software in 2002. Before the euro, it would have included routines to convert dollars and financial reports to assorted European currencies, so that employees in Europe and the United States could get real-time access to project numbers. After the euro, says CFO Bob Anton, the company was spared the time and expense of all but one conversion process.

Bankers throughout Europe, says Keith Stock, a global vice president for Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, are probably still scrambling to find ways to replace the revenue lost from changing money. U.S. and European companies no longer need extensive hedging systems to account for currency fluctuations, further cutting costs. A typical multinational would have had extensive currency hedging operations in each country in Western Europe; now it needs just one.