Opening Cross: The Legacy of the Day that Changed the World

max-bowie
Max Bowie, Inside Market Data

Ten years ago, I was a junior researcher on sibling publication Risk magazine. On the afternoon of Sept. 11, 2001, Risk was having an offsite strategy meeting in a conference room in a hotel basement on Leicester Square in London when a colleague entered and announced that an airplane had hit the World Trade Center in New York, where Waters magazine was holding a major conference. That was the moment the world changed.

At the time, I had never been to New York, had never seen the magnificent twin towers, and could have no idea of the enormity of the destruction—at least, not until the news feeds revealed the full extent of the horror. Amazingly, many people were evacuated to safety, yet many others were still tragically lost, including 16 of our own staff and 65 conference attendees, as well as many heroic members of New York’s emergency services. I remember the management of what was then Risk Waters Group manning phones through the night in desperate attempts to contact missing delegates, hoping that they would be located alive but unable to make contact with loved ones, hoping they would be among those who were running late or chose to skip the morning session, or by some quirk of fate—like many stories I’ve heard in the years since—had been otherwise prevented from attending.

In the days that followed, New York’s financial markets were paralyzed. People were gone. Networks and infrastructures severed. Entire buildings destroyed. Yet there were stories of camaraderie even among the most cutthroat competitors: Data vendors shipped free terminals to firms that found themselves operating from temporary offices and hotel suites. Cantor Fitzgerald, whose WTC-based US business was devastated by the attacks, allied with Tullett & Tokyo Liberty (now Tullett Prebon) to get data to clients, resulting in the creation of Tullett’s SwapMarker—though the two have since returned to unashamed open warfare.

The attacks also contributed to the growing movement to offsite datacenters, with requirements for remote disaster recovery centers and emergency business continuity policies. As industry participants sought to make the most of this remote space, they realized that these hubs could serve as distributed market infrastructures, and datacenter facilities began to fill with marketplaces and end-user firms. For example, though the New York Stock Exchange is protected by metal cordons, its most valuable assets—its transaction and data systems—are stored far away from Broad Street. As these centers flourished, they attracted sophisticated trading groups involved in a new type of trading—algorithmic trading—that required low-latency access to matching engines and datafeeds, ushering a new wave of co-location.

And as speed commoditized the most liquid markets, traders looked for more ways to understand the deluge of data, ultimately leading to a new generation of products like SpryWare’s On-Demand Fastor, and new types of indicators, such as Gmarkets’ TermLine tool and Selerity’s unstructured events data, while also driving interest in other asset classes, spurring—along with the aftermath of another destructive event, the credit crisis—the advance of precision pricing services like those of Credit Market Analysis and startup Benchmark Solutions.

Ten years on, the wounds to New Yorkers, America and the world are—like the scar of Ground Zero in lower Manhattan—beginning to heal. In their place, a strong, new edifice is rising defiantly over lower Manhattan.

September 11, 2001 will always be remembered for the WTC tragedy. But its legacy is far greater, encompassing many initiatives that will help ensure that any similar events in future will not have the same crippling effect, as well as new products and services that have changed the face of trading. I only wish we could have achieved these changes for the better without such a savage tragedy as an impetus.

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