Wall Street Firms Swing Contingency Plans Into Place

By Michael Hickins, CIO Journal
29 October 2012
URL: http://blogs.wsj.com/cio/2012/10/29/wall-street-firms-swing-contingency-plans-into-place/Financial firms in the New York area have put in motion contingency plans to keep operations running despite the devastation expected from Hurricane Sandy and closed financial markets Monday and Tuesday.

For some, disaster preparedness is a matter of course. NYSE/Euronext has its primary data center, a 400,000 square foot, two-level edifice located in New Jersey. That may seem a bit close for comfort, but the company says has been built to withstand high winds and flooding.

FXall, which operates a platform for foreign exchange traders, has a data center in New Jersey and another “out of region,” according to its CIO, Steve Rubinow.

The trading systems are duplicated, and trading would switch from one to the other in the event that the primary center went down. The firm also sent a small team of engineers to a hotel close to the New Jersey facility “in case someone needs to do some work,” Rubinow told CIO Journal during a telephone interview.

FXall has customers around the world, and Rubinow says the goal for the business continuity plan is for “customers that aren’t in the affected area to be able to conduct their business.” So far today, that has been the case. Rubinow says the company has rehearsed business continuity plans, but that the dry runs were no substitute for the real thing. “In concept [business continuity is] simple and straightforward. But you are never able to test these things in real life conditions and, unfortunately, sometimes you have a real-life test of systems. But everything so far has gone okay,” he said.

Many firms have also set up Web-based collaboration tools that employees can use on their mobile devices without being out of compliance. Financial services firms are required to record and to be able to provide documentation of all client conversations, which means brokers relying on remote workers using mobile devices need tools from companies like BT, Orange Business Services, and IPC .

IPC this summer introduced an iPad application that can be used to provide access to internal collaborators as well as customers in a compliant fashion. Brokers working remotely “can bring the assets of the firm to bear in communicating with that customer in an on-demand fashion,” says Michael Speranza, the senior vice president of product management at IPC.