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CTO Hustles To Put Amex Back In Business

&#147;It was tough for all of us. Looking back, I think we did fabulously well. Everything hummed.&#148; <br>

InformationWeek Staff

November 30, 2001

2 Min Read

This past weekend, the secured walkway that elevated the American Stock Exchange's 2,000 employees above generator cables and steam pipes and led them directly to the exchange's offices at 86 Trinity Place in lower Manhattan was torn down. While other businesses with offices at Ground Zero are slowly returning to the area, Amex has been there since early October. Until recently, it was the only business allowed into the hot zone since Sept. 11.

That's because more than 800 members from the nation's biggest brokerage houses execute an average of 68 million equities and options trades each day on the 600 issues listed on the exchange. The idea of shutting down the trading floor, a backbone of the U.S. economy, was unthinkable.

The attacks on the World Trade Center left the exchange's office covered with debris and inaccessible to workers. But Ravi Apte, chief technology officer and executive VP, moved quickly to make sure that the physical and emotional catastrophe didn't knock Amex and its customers out of business.

After six days of round-the-clock labor, Apte and his IT team had successfully rerouted the exchange's equities and options trading networks to two alternate locations, and its systems were operational by the time the financial markets reopened Sept. 17. "It was tough for all of us," Apte says. "Looking back, we did fabulously well. The first week we did an average of 80 million to 90 million shares per day. Everything hummed." On Oct. 1, with its private voice and data circuits rewired, Amex was granted permission to return to its Trinity Place offices (see "Bounce Back").

Apte is no stranger to large projects. Before joining Amex, he spent 16 years at Citibank, where his assignments included building a technology infrastructure in 14 Asian-Pacific countries. Apte now heads a technology group of nearly 300 people and oversees an annual IT budget of more than $130 million.

Ragui Selwanes, VP and technology chief of staff at Amex, has worked side-by-side with Apte since the CTO joined the firm a little more than two years ago. Selwanes says the intensity with which Apte approaches his job was critical in recovering business in the days following the attacks. But Apte also serves as a confidante and personal supporter to his colleagues. "He's the guy who will work your butt off and then let you talk about whatever you need to--work stuff, life stuff, whatever," Selwanes says.

In the aftermath of Sept. 11, these are proving to be invaluable leadership qualities.

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