Ringing the Opening Bell

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We typically only hear—and write—about the consumer-facing side of the financial-trading market. The unsung heroes are the companies recording the busy phone lines traders use to close deals to ensure accuracy. Enter Cross Check Communications, founded in 1993 by former floor trader and telecommunications manager Catherine Oliven. Her company focuses on the needs of Chicago’s trading floors, verifying thousands of recording channels every week to ensure audio files are clear and correct.

“I’m in the business of revealing truths,” Oliven says. “Background noise can be a factor when traders are trying to communicate over the phone. Was it 15, or was it 50? You have to get it resolved because the markets continue moving…. There’s a lot of money flying around down here.”

After the merger closed between the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME), now known as the CME Group, Oliven had a monumental challenge. Cross Check already had been doing business for the CME floor, but with the merger the CME was moving to the CBOT’s floor. “This was a ‘work well under pressure’ scenario for us,” she says, adding that she was told that keeping the business meant accepting a two-week deadline for setting up 500 lines for recording on the new floor. “It was very high expectations [with] extreme risk,” she recalls.

Oliven admits she believed she had a competitive advantage already, because traders using CBOT’s existing technology couldn’t listen to a conversation on the trading floor—they had to burn the recording to a compact disc (CD) and take it with them. “You’d have to wait for a CD to be burned and you wouldn’t be able to watch the markets, which is a loss of both time and money,” she says.

Oliven needed a solution to implement a line-checking and voice-recording system—in two weeks. After looking at larger vendors—including Nice Systems and Verint Systems—Oliven decided on a local player, Chicago-based open-source provider OrecX’s Oreka TR Total Recording system. Within a day, she had a conference call with the vendor, her Linux programmers, an analog-to-digital converter vendor, and her telephone-installation company.

“I had to place an enormous amount of trust in OrecX and the people on my team,” she confides. “The cohesiveness that happened—I don’t believe I would have gotten from Verint, but I sure got it from OrecX.”
Bruce Kaskey, cofounder of OrecX, explains that his company is suited to work quickly and collaboratively with others. “[Oliven] needed something she could have control over and the ability to have someone fix it quickly without going through a lot of bells and whistles,” he says.

The implementation—with so many moving parts and a tight timeframe—could have been a disaster, but Oliven says it was the complete opposite. By working directly with OrecX’s technical support server to set up recording channels for each of the commodity clearing firm’s 500 trading phone lines, she was ready to work in 11 business days.

The results, she explains, were just as rapid: Since the CME Group started utilizing Cross Check’s services, traders can access any call from any computer using a standard browser such as Internet Explorer. Also, traders no longer need to burn CDs; recordings, Oliven says, can be emailed from any computer in two to three clicks. The search criteria native to OrecX’s application allow clients to pull calls quickly from the database and save as many calls as necessary. “From a compliance standpoint, we could easily save a year’s worth of traffic for easy access whenever we need it.”

In the process, Oliven estimates that she has saved $292,000 this year by turning to OrecX, since its open-source nature allows it to run on a standard server and capture recordings from any audio source. She says that she plans to keep using the vendor for the foreseeable future—even as the scope of the project expands. “Oreka TR will continue to be a relevant and affordable solution for me as Cross Check grows,” she says.



Thanks to OrecX’s Oreka TR Total Recording system, Cross Check Communications:

  • saved $292,000, with a projected cumulative savings of $300,000 over the next four years;
  • implemented in just 11 days;
  • enabled traders to remain on the trading floor as they listen to recorded calls, instead of having to burn CDs and go elsewhere; and
  • reduced to just two or three the number of clicks required to email recordings.

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