City IT is not an easy target for G20 protesters

Large financial services companies in London are well prepared for any disruptions stemming from anti-capitalist demonstrations at the G20 meeting tomorrow.


Large financial services companies in London are well prepared for any disruptions stemming from anti-capitalist demonstrations at the G20 meeting tomorrow.

London's financial district is on high alert for expected protests from anarchists, environmentalists and anti-capitalists during the G20 meeting in Canary Wharf.

Workers are being encouraged to avoid the City with those that can working from home. Employees that do go to the office are being encouraged to dress casually so they do not look like bankers.

The disaster recovery and business continuity plans of the major banks will be put into action in case there is major disruption to business. IT departments will play a critical role in ensuring business is not interrupted.

James Martin, former IT COO Europe at investment bank Lehman Brothers, said all the large financial services in London will be well prepared for possible disruption. "The City of London and Canary Wharf are major terrorist targets, so the IT departments are well prepared for protests."

"The IT operations of these firms are set up to enable remote working. Most of the IT is in secure datacentres with IT workers able to access systems from other locations, and most of these firms have multiple offices where people can base themselves."

He said business continuity and disaster recovery plans are always at the top of a COO's agenda in financial services anyway. "When I was at Lehman Brothers we had to shut down the offices on 9/11 and in Canary Wharf you have a few bomb scares every year."

A spokesman at the London Stock Exchange agreed that the nature of financial services makes business continuity and disaster recovery a top priority anyway.

With trades being completed in milliseconds the damage caused by even short periods of network downtime can be disastrous. "We have extensive back up in place including back up sites and the market will run as normal," he added.

He said the company, which is based in the City, is not encouraging people to work from home, but is leaving it up to individual mangers to decide in co-ordination with workers.

HSBC, which is headquartered in Canary Wharf, said it has taken some extra security precautions in co-ordination with the Canary Wharf authority. But a spokesman said the company will operate as usual. "We do not believe there is any reason for people to work at home or for staff to change their dress on particular days."

He added that the company's IT infrastructure is built to withstand disasters. "We have a sophisticated disaster recovery and contingency process in place, but we do not expect to call on it."

The Financial Services Authority said it would expect any company it regulates to be able to continue operating if there were any issues. "We do a lot of business continuity planning with all our regulated banks. This includes if there are disasters such as floods or terrorist attacks."

Jon Cosson, head of IT at stockbroker JM Finn, said the company has been warned it could be a target because it is on the route of a planned march. It also shares a building with a company that has been named as a target.

But the company's IT should not be interrupted, he said.

"We have gone through our disaster recovery plan to make sure everybody is aware of it. We have a disaster recovery site which backs up in real-time so even if the office was smashed up the data would be safe," said Cosson.

The G20 is a group of finance ministers and central bank governors from 20 countries and the European Union (EU). The main meeting is at Canary Wharf's Excel centre on Thursday, but protests are planned throughout the week with banks a major target. The recession and the current economic turmoil that has been largely blamed on banks is the backdrop to the talks.

Read more on IT risk management