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Recovery wakes up to extreme risk

The terrorist attacks of September 11 posed an unprecedented challenge to banks specializing in global custody. Most of them seemed to cope well enough. But the scale of the disruption has focused attention on the need to develop back-up and recovery systems that can cope with widespread destruction, rather than merely deal with localized IT glitches, and can encompass communications links with peer banks and clients.

Bank of New York: its dominant position in custody
meant it bore the brunt of dislocation

In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks on New York, sales of mobile phones shot up as global custody specialist Bank of New York made an emergency purchase of 4,000 phones for its staff to maintain contact with clients. With the two main lower Manhattan exchanges of telecom operator Verizon knocked out, keeping customers in touch with how the bank was coping became an overriding objective.

How do you get hold of 4,000 phones immediately in a terrified, rubble-strewn city? It was an unexpected logistical problem no-one had foreseen; requiring more than a quick jaunt down to the nearest cellphone shop with the corporate credit card. As Tom Perna, head of global custody at Bank of New York, puts it: "This presented us with quite a challenge."

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