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June 6, 2006

The Turret King's Makeover; More Than a Phone

By Melanie Wold

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  • The Turret King's Makeover; More Than a Phone
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IPC Information Services, the largest seller of turrets to the world's trading rooms, is betting a redesign will keep users from dropping its flagship model as well as attract new users. The communications technology vendor is in the process of beta testing the new version with a number of large asset management clients and will begin shipping it out in June. The new turret follows a 15-month redesign effort in which IPC canvassed hundreds of traders about their likes and dislikes.

The result is a sleeker offering with a more sophisticated user interface, making it easier for traders to operate. "The end users were expecting different things than we were offering," concedes Michael Speranza, IPC's vice president of product management, about the need for a makeover.

Adds Lance Boxer, IPC's chief executive officer: "With the advent of cell phones, iPods and Xboxes, the new generation of traders has been weaned on consumer technology. This has had a profound influence on expectations of tools in the workplace."


Today's traders are spoiled for choice: cell phones, Blackberrys, turrets-at work and at home, hoot n' hollers, web cams, pagers. They can stay in touch with their clients, their sales traders and brokers at the touch of a button or a voice command. Customer relationship management information is available on most of the devices, so they can look up client information anywhere, anytime.

This wealth of gadgets, plus the proliferation of electronic video games and MP3 players such as the iPod, has changed the at-work technology expectations of today's traders.

Turret makers have had to take the look, feel and functionality of a wide range of gadgets, as well as traders' habits, into consideration in order to maintain or grow their market share in dealing rooms.

Command Center

Turrets are the communications consoles on a trader's desk that bring together multiple voice phone lines, conference lines, open speaker lines from brokers, video phone lines and customer-related software. They are considered the "command center" for active traders.

Major suppliers include IPC, BT Radianz and Etrali, all of whom have customers ranging from the smallest asset management firms to the largest investment banks.

Users of these devices tend to be front office traders, whose demographics (mainly male, 28-40 years old) are the same as those who are the key consumers of Blackberrys and video game technology.

"We made an aggressive effort to understand what our users were looking for and were expecting from the technology that surrounds them," says Speranza.

To effect its transformation, IPC teamed up with Frog Design, a consulting and industrial design firm, to "start with a clean sheet of paper," says Speranza. Together they went to see 50 IPC customer trading floors globally, interviewing 300 users-from traders to sales traders to researchers, from FX to equities and derivatives players.

What they discovered was that traders were having trouble learning to use the turrets-and traders are very short on time as well as patience.