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To Be or Not to Be an IM Shop?

Financial-services firms are divided when it comes to allowing instant messaging. Many warn they don't have a choice.

IM provides a range of benefits

One firm that is using IM internally is direct-access trader Terra Nova Trading. Terry Regas, manager of the business development group at the Chicago-based firm, is using the e/pop system from WiredRed of San Diego, Calif. Regas says, "It's used across the organization to communicate sensitive information. As a result, if something is happening in the markets or there's an event taking place that could impact the markets, the information can be disseminated quickly.

Another firm using that system is Davenport & Company, a Richmond, Va.-based broker-dealer, which has been using IM for four years. Noting that the firm uses the medium strictly internally, Mike Eckler, vice president of information services, says, "We have it set up so the IT department can IM the entire company in seconds." It is used to notify personnel when an application is down or if there is a network outages. He adds that it prevents the call center from getting swamped with inquiries. Sales assistants also use it to send messages to their bosses when they are on the phone, to advise them of another call or pending meeting. As well, receptionists can use it to see who is in or out of the office.

An audit and reporting feature allows the firm to record and archive IMs to achieve compliance with U.S. securities regulators.

Lee Blackmore, director of information technology at Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, a St. Louis-based brokerage has extended IM to its traders and brokers using technology from IMLogic of Waltham, Mass.

Blackmore says the firm had to come to grips with IM because people had already been using it. So the brokerage confined usage to revenue producers such as traders and brokers.

However, Blackmore expects that will change. "What we've got to do is make sure we use it properly and give everybody what they need and make sure it doesn't become an IT and administrative nightmare."

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