TSE computers behave after chaos

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TSE computers behave after chaos

RICHARD BLACKWELL The Globe and Mail Thursday, March 9, 2000

Toronto -- The Toronto Stock Exchange was up and running all day yesterday, but industry players fear there will be more crashes over the coming months as the exchange struggles to keep its old systems alive until replaced in September.

Despite yesterday's successful trading, "the problems are not fixed; not at all," said one senior brokerage executive.

On Tuesday, the TSE had one of its worst crashes ever, opening an hour late, and then going down for another 98 minutes in the afternoon. It blamed a failed hardware component for the crash.

Several TSE governors conferred by telephone yesterday about the problems, although there was no formal meeting or conference call of the board of directors. Senior

TSE executives were huddled in a meeting late in the day, but would not comment on their immediate plans.

The TSE has said it is prepared to spend as much money as it takes to keep its old systems working until September. That's when the conversion to the new Torex system is scheduled to be complete, and the last components of the old CATS (computer-assisted trading system) processor will be removed.

While Tuesday's problems involved a computer hardware breakdown, not a crash of the CATS system, an earlier problem on Feb. 21 did involve CATS.

CATS, and in particular its order management system that routes trades to the correct part of the trading engine, are the big worry. "We're going to have to do something between now and September to try to minimize the downtime, or to minimize the difficulty the brokers have in getting the trades into the system," TSE chairman Dan Sullivan said. "We're spending a lot of time on that, [to see] what can be done on an interim basis to get to Sept. 1."

Over all, Mr. Sullivan said, "technology and our trading engine are our No. 1 priority by an absolute mile."

Traders are effectively holding their breaths for the TSE to make it through to September without major problems. "We're still at risk here until all the new equipment gets installed and is operational," said Scotia Capital chief trader Fred Ketchen. "We're going to get another downer here one of these days. It's going to happen again. As long as it doesn't last too long, I think we can live with it until everything is in place."

Even the Ontario Securities Commission, which regulates the province's capital markets, has been talking to the TSE about its computer problems. "We're monitoring the situation," OSC spokesman Frank Switzer said yesterday.

However, he said the OSC is not taking a direct role in the TSE's efforts to keep its technology working. "They are a commercial operation and the onus is on them to make sure they're providing the services that people are paying for."

Still, Mr. Switzer said, "we would be concerned if there was a prolonged disruption of service."

One brokerage executive said he is not even confident that the September target date for having the old CATS system replaced is realistic. Outside equipment suppliers are supposed to create the new technology that will replace the CATS order management system, he said, and "it's not clear that the new vendors are going to be able to provide the solutions as of Sept. 1."

TSE president Barbara Stymiest was not available yesterday to comment on the exchange's computer glitches.

The day Ms. Stymiest was named president of the TSE last September, she dismissed technology problems at the exchange as "an odd outage for a minute or two."

Since then, however, there have been at least four technology-related problems, including troubles with calculating the value for some of its indexes, delays in confirming trades, and complete system crashes.


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-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), March 09, 2000

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