Bounce Back: Board Of Trade - InformationWeek

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Bounce Back: Board Of Trade

The urgent intensity of New York Board of Trade brokers seems a bit out of place among the quiet, low-rise brick warehouses of Long Island City in Queens. The Board of Trade scrambled to get two temporary trading floors set up after the terrorist attacks destroyed its 13 trading pits in the World Trade Center, allowing it to start trading when the markets reopened, six days after the Sept. 11 attacks.

The dramatically reduced space, less than a mile across the East River from Manhattan, means that traders accustomed to spending four to five hours in the pressure-cooker now work shifts of about 90 minutes. The idle traders, many clad in blazers identifying their firms, are left to mill about anxiously on 43rd Avenue on a cool fall day, smoking and devouring sandwiches from a lunch truck that's pulled up alongside the industrial building.

Space is tight--the facility is one-quarter the size of the former World Trade Center location--but when it's their turn to take the floor, traders in commodities such as coffee, cocoa, sugar, and orange juice leave their cubicles on the sidelines and crowd into the center of the room. When the bell sounds, this state-of-the-art IT facility is transformed into an old-fashioned, bare-knuckles trading floor filled with more pointing and shouting than a hockey game. Voices quickly grow hoarse, fists clutch and wave papers used to buy and sell. Pieces of these paper forms, which are reconciled electronically by the end of the day using the Board of Trade's Trade Input Processing System, litter the floor and tabletops. When the bell sounds again, the traders, red-faced and perspiring, drift back to their cubicles or file back onto the street for another smoke and the chance to make some calls on their cell phones.

Space is tight at the New York Board of Trade's temporary facility; it's only about one-quarter as large as the former headquarters at the Trade Center.
The reason the Board of Trade was able to get back to work so quickly was the $300,000 a year it paid Comdisco Inc. to maintain this backup trading floor. But the board's IT staff still had plenty of challenges in the days after the attacks. Its original disaster plan didn't account for widescale destruction of the financial district. A plan for the IT staff to meet at a park near Trinity Church, not far from Four World Trade Center, was impossible. Steve Bass, the board's senior VP of IT, was on the Path commuter train traveling from New Jersey to Manhattan when a fellow traveler informed him of the attack on the World Trade Center. Throughout the day, using Nextel mobile phones as two-way radios, he was able to rally much of his staff to gather at the Comdisco building in Queens by 6 p.m., despite the chaos and lack of public transportation. By midnight Tuesday, the stopgap trading floor was ready, waiting for regulators and board officials to give the go-ahead for markets to reopen.

The board also never expected to stay in temporary quarters so long. Since it looks like it will spend another six to 12 months there, executives are looking at this emergency center a little differently. "One thing I absolutely hate is not having a backup center," says Mark Fichtel, the Board of Trade's president and CEO. Fichtel has proposed a "seven-figure" plan for a new data center, which is under consideration.

The board's leadership hasn't decided where to relocate. There are some tricky requirements, such as 25-foot ceilings so that data screens can be hung and viewed throughout the trading floor. The Board of Trade will replace the Tandem Himalaya servers it used and move forward with a new electronic order-routing and trade-reporting system it's been planning. It will consider locating its main IT operations at a separate office from its trading floor for security reasons, with only network and help-desk staff available on site.

As for where that trading floor will be, Fichtel says that tranquil as the outer boroughs of New York can be, they're an unacceptable option: The Board of Trade will return to Manhattan. Says Fichtel, "We don't want the terrorists to win by driving us out."

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Bounce Back: Board Of Trade
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