The determination of companies affected by the attacks on the World Trade Centre to get back to business is something to behold. Few following events in America can have missed Cantor Fitzgerald chief executive Howard Lutnick’s emotional interview on ABC news. Over 400 companies were housed in the two towers, scores more in surrounding buildings. Although so many firms are rightly preoccupied with contacting and accounting for their employees, they have also taken the defiant stance that it’s ‘business as usual’.
In saying so, they face the enormous logistical task of restoring damaged or destroyed IT and communication systems. By the time the New York markets re-opened, Richard Grasso, chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, announced that firms handling more that 90% of the daily business had been reconnected. Many companies considered relocating staff to offices in either London or Asia, where many of the trades out of America were redirected. As it turns out, most investment managers and brokerage houses affected have instead set up temporary offices either in midtown Manhattan or in New Jersey.
Many large investment banks and managers, including Deutsche, Lehman Brothers and Salomon Smith Barney, have set up in emergency premises elsewhere. Fiduciary Trust, which had offices on five floors of the south tower, and Citibank have moved to temporary offices in New Jersey and Citibank has set up a dealing room there.
News from brokers Cantor Fitzgerald remains stark. A week after the attacks, 700 employees were still missing. But in an astonishing display of defiance, the 300 employees unaffected by the disaster turned up for work at a temporary office in New Jersey. Some of the New York business has been transferred to the London office.
Morgan Stanley was one of the largest tenants of the World Trade Centre with offices on 20 floors of the two towers. Of its 3,500 employees housed there, around 1,000 were involved in either the brokerage or investment management side. Morgan Stanley says that it has resumed full operations and some of the business is being run from London office. Institutional trades were already being processed in Brooklyn but the group has opened a back-up system to process its retail trades.
Staff at Friends Ivory & Sime (FIS) previously based in the World Trade Centre are working from a disaster recovery site in New York but, for the time being, all fund management and administration activities for North America are being run from the UK. FIS says it is at the advanced stages of supporting the business fully from the UK but that there are practical difficulties recovering its systems and communication links.
Deutsche Asset Management’s employees were evacuated from its office at 130 Liberty Street. The group has activated its emergency response procedures and opened up a back up facility in New Jersey as a replacement for the Liberty Street building which was badly damaged. Staff from the investment management teams will move to New Jersey while its corporate finance department is being relocated to other offices in Manhattan.
Lehman Brothers, another of the firms evacuated from the financial district, was quick to resume business. Chairman and CEO Richard Fuld confirmed the company has introduced its disaster recovery plan and moved its staff and support services to its back up centre on Hudson street in New Jersey where it now has over 1,000 staff.
With offices in the financial centre, Merrill Lynch was also badly affected. Chairman and CEO David Komansky says it might be anywhere up to a year until they return to their former offices.