Communication. It's been a challenge ever since humankind first walked the Earth. First sounds, then speech, then writing. Today communication in all its forms -- written, voice, video, e-mail, instant message, Twitter -- is propelling business at a blinding pace.
For Steve Rubinow, EVP and co-CIO at NYSE Euronext, communication obviously is important to his business. Slow or ineffective communication would send customers to other exchanges that communicate faster or more accurately, or both. (To hear Rubinow's keynote presentation at our upcoming virtual event, visit: Accelerating Wall Street.)
But Rubinow also knows that good communication -- on a personal level and across NYSE Euronext's global footprint -- is vital to his success and the success of the exchange. "My father instilled in me from a very early age the importance of communication skills," Rubinow relates. "Your ability to communicate orally and in writing is vital. No matter what industry you are in, your ability to communicate is a big part of success."
Rubinow works to ensure that he is able to interact easily with other managers and that NYSE Euronext is making it as easy as possible for all employees to share ideas and collaborate. "Just as we try to remove as much friction from trading as possible, it's important to remove friction in our communication systems," he says.
To foster communication with his staff, Rubinow has located as many key people as possible on the same floor as his New York office, at 11 Wall Street. "I want to be able to bump into the people I need to work with in the hallway," he notes. "If I have to take the stairway or elevator, that injects a little bit of friction into the communication system."And Rubinow doesn't just move people to different floors to facilitate better communication -- he even will move them to a different continent. When NYSE Euronext began work on its universal trading platform, a single platform that eventually will trade all products across the globe, the development work was mostly being done in Europe. "We took our best U.S. developers and they went to Europe for about six months," Rubinow recalls. "They were solving problems in a live environment. Someone has a problem, so they shout it out. Someone else helps solve it, and you move on to the next item. Sure, they could send e-mails back and forth for months. But if everyone is together, the project is completed much faster. Problems were solved quickly. We are trying to do more of that with important projects."
But couldn't NYSE Euronext have accomplished the same goals if it created a virtual environment with IM, video chat, wikis and other Web 2.0 tools to help developers collaborate -- all while keeping them at their home office (with much less cost)? Possibly, Rubinow acknowledges. But, he contends, there is no substitute for a live work environment.
"There is no question in my mind: There is nothing that beats having people working together in the same place," Rubinow stresses. "This is why some of our smaller competitors may have an advantage in the beginning -- because they all sit in the same room, all of their ideas are heard at the same time. No one has to send an e-mail across the country to discuss what was said because everyone who needed to hear it was in the room. They can act on things quickly."
Rubinow knows about the value of smaller working teams. When he was CTO of Archipelago, the then small electronic exchange was able to move quickly and implement new technologies with a very small staff. Today, according to Rubinow, fostering better communication in small groups will help bring that same entrepreneurial spirit and productivity to the much larger and more complex NYSE Euronext.
For smaller projects and day-to-day work, NYSE Euronext does employ many communication tools that are now commonplace in many organizations, including instant messaging, wikis and especially videoconferencing (both on the desktop through simple webcams and in videoconference rooms for larger meetings). "There is a big difference between visual and non-visual communications," Rubinow notes. "The facial expressions and body language is a huge part of communication."
For times when face-to-face -- or webcam-to-webcam -- interaction isn't possible, Rubinow is looking at alternatives, such as Second Life. "We are beginning to experiment in Second Life," he says. "We are going to use it as one more collaboration tool. I have tried it personally. ... We'll see if it is a fit here, or we'll see if it is just a novelty."Greg MacSweeney is editorial director of InformationWeek Financial Services, whose brands include Wall Street & Technology, Bank Systems & Technology, Advanced Trading, and Insurance & Technology. View Full Bio