As companies turn to remote work amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the pivot to remote status is difficult for those working around strict compliance rules and technology requirements, including those workers in government organizations, banks, brokers and stock exchanges.
In the past, trading software and market-data platforms were installed on a specific machine on a trading floor, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday. But today, vendors can offer products on a software-as-a-service (SaaS) basis, with some accessible through web browsers.
"As extraordinary a time as it is, today’s technology has proven impressively resilient," Atte Lahtiranta, chief technology officer at Goldman Sachs, told the Wall Street Journal.
In order to communicate, workers in these fields must comply with regulations such as the Dodd-Frank Act, which requires banks to record all trades-related communications. To honor this, most popular communication apps like Slack and Zoom don’t make the cut.
Remote finance work, such as banking, hedge fund management and brokerage work must be conducted over secure collaboration tools and platforms. One such platform, Symphony Communication Services, LLC, provides chat and video, alongside financial software that allows traders to "share charts, market data and other essential information," WSJ said. The platform’s usage has jumped 50% since the beginning of the pandemic.
Additionally, capital-markets businesses have been forced to move staff off trading floors and into remote-working sites, or mandating work-from-home, as markets have become enormously volatile, which WSJ says only adds to the strain on technology.
Market technology head at Nasdaq Inc., Lars Ottersgard, told WSJ U.S. markets are handling "around 60 billion buy and sell orders a day," which he calls "an enormous load on the system."
But the system is vital. The pandemic has forced the handful of non-electronic exchanges into temporary closure, the New York Stock Exchange among them. But, WSJ notes, NYSE is set to shift to a fully electronic model early this week.
This trend towards complete digitization, particularly within finance, comes as no surprise. A survey of CFOs conducted by PricewaterhouseCooper last week found that while global recession is a large concern, thanks to the digital transformation of operations and a strong financial environment, CFOs think they're relatively well prepared for the pandemic.
Developments in remote business and communication mean that, despite the slow uptake, the markets are in better shape to weather the pandemic than they would have been a few years ago, Ottersgard said. "Maybe we’ll be even better [equipped] next time it happens, because we are learning as we go forward," he told WSJ.
As CIO Dive reported earlier this month, over a quarter of budgets are spent on digital transformation and for those doing it well, the payback can occur within 12 months.
When the CIO and CFO collaborate to usher in digital change, CIO Dive wrote, the company "can unlock a reduced IT cost, increase an enterprise's ability to generate new opportunities and get them to market quicker."