Bounce Back: TradeWeb - InformationWeek

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Bounce Back: TradeWeb

Each morning, John Demitroff jumps in his Saab for a five-minute drive from his Munsey Park, N.Y., home to the Long Island Rail Road's Manhasset station. The 6:24 a.m. train to Manhattan is always packed for the half-hour trip. Upon arriving at Penn Station, Demitroff climbs a long staircase to the main floor. But instead of taking a right at McDonald's and hopping the subway for a 15-minute ride to TradeWeb LLC's offices on the 51st floor of One World Trade Center, TradeWeb's VP of marketing makes a left after emerging from the train tunnel. He passes a makeshift memorial with flowers, candles, and pictures of lost loved ones that occupies a small section next to the ticket booths. Uniformed police officers are visible in every corner of the station, as are National Guard soldiers in fatigues--another reminder that life isn't the same.

As he goes up an escalator, another wall, once yellow-painted concrete, is now decorated in red, white, and blue. A large poster that reads "From Lubbock, Texas With Love" is pinned amid hundreds of handwritten notes offering support. Fighting the crowds, Demitroff walks one block, passing street vendors peddling American flags, buttons, and bandannas. Down two more flights of stairs, he enters the Path commuter train station. He's two train stops away from his final destination, the 13th floor of One Evertrust Plaza in Jersey City, N.J.

The atmosphere in Jersey City is noticeably different when he arrives at around 8 a.m. The streets are less crowded, the buildings aren't as tall, and there are no street vendors or National Guard soldiers around. A single reminder hangs from the construction site across the street from TradeWeb's temporary office building. A large cloth banner reads "God Bless America."

All 82 of TradeWeb's employees escaped the tower after the terrorist attacks. While employees scrambled from the building, falling debris rained down outside the windows. Fire caused by an explosion in one of the elevator shafts raged on one portion of the floor. Automatic sprinklers kicked in, flooding the stairwells, as thousands descended the staircases, cheering on firefighters who were making their way up.

It took seven days for the company to move to temporary headquarters in Jersey City and 20 days to get its U.S. trading platform running. TradeWeb occupied about 30,000 square feet of space in the World Trade Center. Now, 100 computers and phones sit side by side in an office a fraction of the size. A temporary divider separates TradeWeb from Moody's Investment Corp., which had to relocate from offices on 99 Church St., which is still closed off. Blue baseball caps that read "Back Online" sit atop some TradeWeb employees' computers, next to small American flags.

The Internet made it possible for TradeWeb to get back to its business of providing an online trading platform for bond traders. Individual investors connect to the online trading platform via the Web. Six months prior to the attacks, the company had established a backup data center at its London office. After the attacks, TradeWeb simply redirected their IP addresses from New York to London.



Using the Internet let TradeWeb get back to business quickly, although moving to temporary quarters took a week and getting its U.S. trading platform up took 20 days.
Connecting dealers was a bit tougher. Most had been linking to the site via leased lines. To get them up and running, TradeWeb had to order new lines from each of its 13 U.S. dealers to its London office. The month-long wait convinced three dealers to instead access TradeWeb over a virtual private network rather than dedicated lines.

The company is searching for new office space in New York; it's also building a data center in Jersey City that will ultimately be used as a backup site. Daily trading volume is back to normal, with about $30 billion in transactions.

The mood at TradeWeb these days is one of determination and pride. One employee brought in a large American flag--once draped over the coffin of his grandfather, a World War II Navy veteran--that hangs in the back of the room near the programmers. President and CEO Jim Toffey is sensitive to the emotional turmoil his staff has experienced. "This terrible tragedy has affected all of us on many different fronts," he says. "We've worked hard to balance the goals of the company while also addressing each employee's personal situation."

In a Sept. 17 meeting at the DoubleTree Hotel in Jersey City, TradeWeb employees and dealers met--and hugged--for the first time since they had scattered when the towers were ablaze. Eight counselors were on hand for employees.

Right after the attacks, Demitroff had wandered in the city, stunned by what had happened. He ended up in Central Park, near the skating rink where two workers were building a set of bleachers. He marveled at how they could work with the destruction that was taking place a short distance away. "I sat there for a good five minutes just staring at them," he recalls. People now look at TradeWeb and other survivors with a sense of wonderment.

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