Financial firms making and marketing their own IM

ABN Amro Bank NV needed instant messaging (IM). But it also needed a system that would be secure.

So the Dutch finance firm followed the lead of competitor UBS Warburg LLC, a unit of Zurich-based UBS AG, and even hired the man who oversaw deployment of specialized IM software created in-house at UBSW.

"I think the financial industry is leading with respect to use of technology," said Andy Konchan, director of e-commerce for the Global Financial Markets unit at ABN Amro. Konchan was director of the E-commerce Business Technology Group at UBSW until he was recruited to implement the MindAlign IM software at ABN Amro last year.

Indeed, financial services is one of only a few key areas that analysts say will see benefits from IM early on, as more and more financial services firms look to their own for secure IM solutions. Like UBSW, Deutsche Bank AG in Frankfurt created its own IM with the help of a vendor a few years ago. For nine months now, the German bank has used an upgraded version of that IM software, developed entirely by that vendor, E-Vantage Solutions Inc. in New York.

Enterprise deployment of IM has, in general, relied upon secure products from vendors such as Cambridge, Mass.-based IBM subsidiary Lotus Software Group and Beverly, Mass.-based Groove Networks Inc., which was founded by Ray Ozzie, the creator of Lotus' Notes e-mail software.

A March survey by Osterman Research, Inc. in Black Diamond, Wash., found that of the few companies that had standardized on an IM product, about 65 percent did so on Sametime from Lotus.

"Since public IM services are unsuitable for use in sensitive commercial environments, enterprise vendors are developing secure IM products and services," said Michael Sampson, an analyst at Ferris Research Inc. in San Francisco.

Aside from security, Konchan said, financial services firms also turn to industry-created products such as MindAlign because they have been fine-tuned for the industry and are easy to use.

MindAlign was developed at UBSW but is now sold commercially by Divine Inc. in Chicago.

The MindAlign software updates financial market information to corporate customers over a secure system. There are also channels that serve as collaborative, real-time portals, where users can check in on the latest stock or currency information as well as work with colleagues.

At Deutsche Bank, employees use E-Vantage's Enterprise Instant Messenger client software throughout their global operations for internal communication. In Europe, they use a mobile version that works over Short Messaging System devices to help customers get stock updates and initiate transactions in real time, according to Hermann Seiler, head of card and e-business services at Deutsche Bank.

Seiler said he needed to ensure a higher level of security, which is why Deutsche Bank chose to buy the product from E-Vantage.

"They very early on specialized very much in this transactional type of model," Seiler said, citing their ability to do security as key.

While security holes haven't been a serious problem with the popular chat technology until recently, knowing whom you are chatting with is a serious security concern. Between pass codes, personal identification numbers and the security built into the Global System for Mobile Communications protocol used by Deutsche Bank, user authentication is secure, Seiler said.

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More about ABN AMRO MorgansE-commerce Business Technology GroupE-Vantage SolutionsFerris ResearchGroove NetworksIBM AustraliaOsterman ResearchUBS Warburg

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