Lessons from financial services? Use IM

There were two significant developments in the use of instant messaging by financial services firms last week, and they demonstrate how instant messaging can be used to complement traditional business functions rather than provide new paradigms for communicating or working with others.

* Scottrade, a St. Louis online brokerage house, has deployed WiredRed's e/pop instant messaging system so that Scottrade's headquarters-based IT department can communicate in real time with the company's 177 branch offices. E/pop will be used to relay critical information about network and Web issues to these offices, which is particularly important for Scottrade, since 97 per cent of the company's trades take place on the Web.

* Fxall - which provides electronic trading services for banks, money managers and others that trade foreign currencies - will use Communicator's Hub IM product to allow its clients toaccess messaging and other services and to access FXall's corporate directory of investment houses. FXall began working with Communicator two years ago for the development of FXall's integrated portal, a service that allows clients to access research provided by multiple institutions, information from other clients, and to communicate privately with customers.

Instead of changing the way that these businesses work, instant messaging is instead providing a supplemental benefit, either providing faster, more secure and more responsive communication; better collaboration capabilities; or simply providing additional resources to aid traditional business processes.

These announcements highlight the relatively advanced nature of instant messaging use in the financial services market compared to other industries and how this industry has taken to instant messaging in a very serious way. The two announcements also provide a good model for how instant messaging can be used in innovative ways in other businesses.

For example, enterprise IT departments could use instant messaging as a means of informing users about potential problems in e-mail delivery. If a user sent a 4M-byte worksheet to 500 users, an instant message generated by the mail system could pop up asking if they really intended to do that, and direct them to a help page on how to better distribute such a large document, all the while holding the message in a queue until the sender verified that they had intended to send the message this way. Instant messaging could be used as a feature on a wide variety of portal services to provide additional functionality and more value to a company's suppliers and other partners.

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