When it comes to compliance, the term "electronic communications" can refer to a wide range of information interactions, including Web conferencing. According to a report by Stamford, Conn.-based research firm, Gartner, the Web conferencing market is expected to grow 17 percent annually, to reach $1.1 billion in 2008. As more financial services firms rely on interactive Web meetings to communicate with clients and colleagues, the need to record and retain the information exchanged on those channels becomes increasingly vital.
"In the past, e-mail was the first electronic communication vehicle to affect the way business was done in the financial services industry. Then came instant messaging. In each of these cases, the industry witnessed accelerating usage as well as an external usage component," says Doug Louie, senior industry manager of financial services at WebEx, a San Jose, Calif.-based Web conferencing technology provider. "Initially, Web meetings were used mostly for internal training-type meetings. However, in the last few years, we've seen accelerating usage of Web meetings in an external capacity, such as communicating and transacting with clients."
Louie adds that this trend, coupled with the overall growth of Web meetings, spurred many compliance departments to inquire about a solution that would capture and store the meetings' content automatically. The end product, WebEx Retention Solution, was released in June at the Securities Industry Association's Technology Management Conference in New York City. It was specifically designed to capture all meeting content automatically -- including chat, presentations, audio and video. It creates searchable indexes of meeting data for archiving on a company's write-once read-many (WORM) compliant storage network, and content is recorded in a secure format optimized for scalable storage. Customers also can use the solution's administrative settings to customize the settings to meet their specific retention policies. "With the proliferation of electronic commerce, the Securities and Exchange Commission amended rule 17a-4 and 17a-3 to include retention of electronic communications," says Louie. "Recently, we've seen increased enforcement and escalation of fines around electronic communications ... prompting WebEx to [assist] our financial services clients with their compliance requirements."