NYSE outage; If I had a dollar and an hour

In the past, when a manager would assign me a task I would ask them a hypothetical question, “If I only had one dollar and one hour, how much of each would you like me to spend on this?” This discipline helped prioritize the many projects that were in varies stages of progress.

It is safe to assume that in the aftermath of the NYSE outage several projects will be initiated across a host of firms and agencies in the coming days. These projects will undoubtedly have multiple sub-categories that will each require a portion of industry’s dollars and hours. In allocating these precious and limited resources, I hope that a portion of each are dedicated to the human side of dealing with a crisis.

Communication within our industry has become electronic across every department. The act of picking up the phone and talking to someone is a lost art even in situations when the conversation is an easy one to have. Imagine for a moment how difficult it is to have a conversation that starts with, “our systems are down and we may be affecting your business”

The STA has consistently promoted the importance of the human element in our industry and how the relationship still matters. Historically however, our remarks on relationships have been in the context of serving customers and improving production. Today, we would like to highlight the importance of the relationship between firms who are linked to one another, either by choice or mandate and find themselves in the midst of a crisis together.

Recently, the STA was invited by DTCC to help organize a small round table of industry professionals to discuss what steps we as an industry can take to control disruptions in the market caused by technology issues. The conversation began with the assumption that the technology disruption had occurred and participants at the table were asked some rudimentary questions like; who do you call? What do you say? Communication within our industry has become electronic across every department. The act of picking up the phone and talking to someone is a lost art even in situations when the conversation is an easy one to have. Imagine for a moment how difficult it is to have a conversation that starts with, “our systems are down and we may be affecting your business”

Most agreements between firms require the names of individuals or points of contacts for when an outage or crisis occurs. But these requirements are only informational in nature and cannot ensure that when a crisis arises the points of contact are communicating effectively. Ensuring that these dialogues are productive and achieve resolution requires a relationship between the people having them.

With that in mind, I hope that all firms and not just ones impacted by this week’s event pause and ask themselves, who do I call when we have a crisis? And, how well do I know that person? If your answers make you feel uncomfortable, then it may be worth spending a portion of your next hour and next dollar over a cup of coffee with those folks. Relationships and the human element matter.