Centre gives Merrill insurance against IRA

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The Independent Online
MERRILL LYNCH, the American securities house, has joined with BT to build a complete duplicate dealing room in London's Docklands in case of another big IRA bomb in the City, writes John Willcock.

Merrill has leased a disused property it owns in Docklands to Syntegra, the systems integration business of BT, in order to build a secure emergency centre that can restart trading only hours after Merrill's City office has been rendered unusable, whether by bomb, fire or flooding.

Syntegra has already invested pounds 15m in the project and expects to complete it in the autumn. It will be able to house roughly 300 of Merrill's 1,600 employees. Syntegra is also seeking other clients, who will originally be situated at least half a mile from any other clients like Merrill so that one disaster does not overload the centre.

The eventual capacity of the centre will allow up to three other clients the size of Merrill to sign up, although Syntegra stresses that businesses of any size are welcome to apply.

Michael Cowan, chief administration officer for Merrill in Europe, said the decision to build the centre had been prompted by the bomb in the New York World Trade Centre, directly opposite Merrill's world head office, as well as the two IRA bombs in London.

A recent fire in Merrill's London office set off by an analyst's cigarette end had reinforced the company's willingness to invest in a centre, Mr Cowan said. It might now build one in New York, he added.

Mr Cowan said Merrill's approach differed from many other institutions in the City, which relied on suppliers and fellow institutions to provide immediate back-up after a disaster. More than 4,000 securities trades were undertaken by Merrill in its London office each day, and the centre's 2,500 telephone lines would ensure a smooth flow of business, he said.