Rideworks Review

Merrill Lynch Recovery & Continuity Helped By Telework

The recovery of Wall Street financial industry activity less than a week after September 11 was made possible by the rebuilding of communication infrastructure and the creating of virtual work environments for relocated financial firms. Soon after the evacuation of the World Financial Center, some 9,000 Merrill Lynch bankers, traders, analysts, and support staff were temporarily working from remote locations in Manhattan, New Jersey and Connecticut. Web-based communications smoothed the displacement of the firms operating functions. Alternate transportation service information (company shuttles, vans and ferries) was posted on the company employee website along with updates on policies and procedures, ongoing corporate memorandums to the staff, and a database of contact information for all the company employees.

By the time the stock market resumed trading, Merrill Lynch was operating at 95% normal trading capacity. This business continuity success story resulted from implementing a network of remote-work locations and providing alternate commute transportation for employees to the temporary work sites.

Merrill Lynch, like other Wall Street financial firms in similar extraordinary circumstances, experienced a drastic increase in the number of requests for telecommuting work arrangements. Fortunately, as part of Merrill Lynch's contingency plan, a formal telecommuting program was in place which provides extensive training to both teleworkers and their managers. Having a formal telework program made it possible to adapt and try to keep up with the increased telework demand from more than 1,500 displaced employees.

"Qualifying for the program has been changed slightly," said Selena Morris, spokesperson for Merrill Lynch about those that have been allowed to telecommute since September 11. After considering and rejecting the idea of shortening the training period during which teleworkers learn how to manage working from a remote site, the company elected to increase outreach and handle training by phone and through their web site.

In addition to Merrill Lynch, other Wall Street financial firms experienced an increase in the number of requests for telecommuting work arrangements in this recovery time period. Zurich Financial Services Group shipped laptops and cellphones to its workers within days of the disaster, and American Express started working virtually in temporary locations in New Jersey and Connecticut. The company has invested heavily to install extra phone lines, fax machines and printers in employee's homes.

Morris added that at this time it is too soon to tell how many of the new telecommuters will continue after the company begins to move back into their World Financial Center location some time after Thanksgiving.