Chat Rooms and Trading Floors

“We’re a more socially-connected world, there have been advances in compliances controls, and there have been changes in social norms."

emilia-david-headshot

Chat platforms have always been part and parcel of the financial services industry, although their widespread adoption is contingent on users’ increased comfort with technology, Emilia says.

As chat platforms become more popular, it was only a matter of time before the financial industry began to openly embrace the technology once more. Chat has been a presence in the industry for years, but was sidelined when a number of trading floors chose to ban messaging platforms in reaction to the London Interbank Offered Rate (Libor) and foreign-exchange fixing scandals. 

It is interesting that other industries have now become enamored with the technology, following the capital markets as one of the leading adopters of messaging platforms as an alternative means of communication, although that was before the scandals hit the financial services world. It is, after all, an industry that prizes communication with counterparties as a way of expediting bespoke deals and speed at the same time. The popularity of chat platforms continues to grow across a variety of industries at the same time that email’s pervasiveness appears to be on the wane as the default form of communication in the corporate world. 

The financial services industry has a more measured stance on messaging than other industries, preferring to implement platforms that limit the number of participants and meet strict regulatory compliance measures. The industry values chat’s ability to make the trade lifecycle easier to manage by bringing the front, middle, and back offices closer together. BlackRock managing director and head of the Aladdin product group, Jody Kochansky, says that chat has allowed for faster problem-solving within the $6 trillion asset manager. “Each form of communication—whether it’s voice, chat, or email—is a different kind of experience. Email can be slow and the ‘reply all’ feature can be cumbersome,” Kochansky says. “With chat, you can see the entire thread of dialogue on one screen. In case there’s an issue – say a reconciliation break – it’s easier and faster to go back to the conversations and fix the problem.”

Kochansky adds that BlackRock has always believed that it needed a chat system to streamline communication within the firm. It therefore built its own internal chat system called Genie, which supports the bulk of its internal communication. But recently, BlackRock started using Symphony for messaging because, according to Kochansky, Genie needed to be upgraded with new features that Symphony already had. 

As evidenced by BlackRock’s experience, one of chat’s biggest selling points is its collaboration feature. Now that the time between trade execution and reporting has shrunk, being able to problem solve quickly takes on greater urgency. It also allows corporates to introduce products to market much faster than was previously possible. 

The more widespread adoption of chat relies on the increasing comfort with technology, even as banks install chat platforms to enable greater efficiency. And, as with many innovations introduced to the financial sector, chat benefits from similar platforms being used in many users’ personal lives. Debra Walton, managing director at Thomson Reuters, says one of the reasons the financial services sector is embracing chat is the current environment along with increased compliance measures.

“We’re a more socially-connected world, there have been advances in compliances controls, and there have been changes in social norms,” she says.

Chat in the financial services industry is not just served by well-known names like Bloomberg, or new arrivals like Symphony. As explained in the chat feature, large firms like Microsoft and Silicon Valley-startups like Slack have their eyes on expanding their messaging empires to the financial services sector. Walton says Thomson Reuters believes in partnering with other platform and following users to where they are communicating rather than boxing them into one particular offering. Eikon Messenger previously partnered with chat platforms like AOL Messenger and Yahoo Messenger and currently has a partnership with Symphony to provide Thomson Reuters Eikon applications to its user-base. “That’s a reason why Thomson Reuters chose an open market, because no one company can be the be-all and end-all,” Walton says. 

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