Bounce Back: AMEX - InformationWeek

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Bounce Back: AMEX

Just 50 yards from the World Trade Center rubble, workers from the American Stock Exchange queue up at a security checkpoint each morning to show their special-issue identification cards to police officers and armed soldiers from the National Guard. From there, they continue on a walkway that covers generator cables and steam pipes leading to their building at 86 Trinity Place, adjacent to the east end of Ground Zero.

En route, workers peer at the zone of destruction, where the World Trade Center and surrounding buildings once stood. Dust and a burning odor occasionally waft through the air. It's an atypical commute, but because of their importance to the financial community, the exchange's 2,000 traders and staff are the only people not associated with the World Trade Center cleanup allowed in the protected zone. Employees appear accustomed to the extra security, continuing cell-phone conversations while casually showing their IDs.

But the exchange couldn't come back to its usual setting right away. Like many business managers in New York's financial district, Amex executives surveyed the damage to their facilities the day after the Sept. 11 attacks. With windows blown out and offices covered with debris, Ravi Apte, chief technology officer and executive VP, knew right away that there would be no immediate return home. "We had nonstop discussions on Wednesday and Thursday on what our contingency plans would be," he says. "This isn't something we had plans for." But Apte knew Amex's member companies would soon be anxious to start trading again. "We were under enormous pressure to get back to business," he says.

The American Stock Exchange is running as it did prior to the Sept. 11 attacks, but employees face more security checkpoints.
By the time financial markets reopened Sept. 17, Amex's IT staff had successfully rerouted and tested the company's two trading divisions--options and equities--to two alternate locations. In an unprecedented sign of cooperation, the New York Stock Exchange offered Amex two trading posts for its equities division's floor. Both Amex and the NYSE use Securities Industry Automation Corp., a third-party information-processing and technology hub in Brooklyn. Amex's IT team worked with SIAC to identify the lines coming in from those two posts and link them to Amex server farms. Meanwhile, Amex options were traded directly on the Philadelphia Stock Exchange.

Both divisions executed flawlessly when the markets opened Sept. 17--a much-needed victory in a disaster-plagued environment. "Our network, application development, and data-center operations people were all working long hours and extended shifts," Apte says. "But morale is very high, and they're confident because they demonstrated resilience and teamwork to get the exchange running."

Still, the exchange wasn't running optimally with workers crammed into shared space on borrowed trading floors. So Amex set a goal of reopening its downtown floor by Oct. 1. The IT staff worked with Verizon Communications Inc. to reroute private voice and data circuits that once linked the exchange with member companies and were damaged in the attacks.

Now the exchange is operating as it did before Sept. 11; it's back in its own building, although workers must use a different subway station and endure a strict security check. "Clearly, all the events around us are causing us to go through different sentiments, from fear to anger to concern," Apte says. And though it's been set back by two relocations and a need to reassess contingency plans, Amex is continuing with technology development as it had planned before the attacks. Says Apte, "Whatever projects we had on our plate were business-critical and will continue to happen."

The Stories:
Bounce Back: J.P. Morgan
Bounce Back: TradeWeb
Bounce Back: Amex
Bounce Back: AIG
Bounce Back: Board Of Trade
Regeneration Resources

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