With many employers banning Instant Messaging (IM), (an instant, in-your-face kind of e-mail), to prevent workers from idle chatter, Reuters of New York and Microsoft of Redmond, Wash., have developed their own IM exclusively for the financial-services community.

Reuters claims that it had 1,072 firms in 84 countries already signed up for Reuters Messaging service, prior to the new IM's official launch date of Oct. 14. Reuters expects 175,000 professionals to be using its new IM by year-end.

The service includes messaging, which allows users to receive and send encrypted messages globally in real-time. Users can choose to inform those they interact with whether they are online, log messages and create a secure and complete audit trail in compliance with regulatory and organizational standards, the company said.

Since it is based on open standards, Reuters IM can also be integrated with financial institutions' existing platforms, according to the firm. The base-messaging product includes messaging, connectivity and the ability to IM anybody at no charge per month.

"Quite often, someone in the mutual fund or other industry needs to actually get a couple of key pieces of information out to a wide breadth of people," said Lewis Knopf, Reuters managing director of collaborative services. "If those people happen to be online, they get an instant message, and if not, they get an e-mail."

Reuters is making a clear attempt to distance its service from the consumer-oriented IM versions for the general public, AOL Instant Messenger and Yahoo Messenger, being two of the most popular. These are unencrypted and "open to everybody, irrespective of the industry," Knopf said.

Peter Harris, founder and president of Lighthouse Partners, an advanced technology consulting firm that specializes in the financial markets, headquartered in Brooklyn Heights, N.Y., said that Reuters' IM service is pretty much like MSN, AOL, or Yahoo. However, with its added encryption and bent towards the financial community, it may resonate among fund companies because there is a legitimate need for IM in the workplace.

"Simple e-mail capability has been one of the most used elements of the Bloomberg service," Harris said. "So, this IM service from Reuters, I am sure, will be eagerly used."

Harris also noted that there are currently other IM services for the financial markets, such as White Plains, N.Y.-based Communicator Inc.'s Hub IM.

"In order for a system like Reuters' messaging system to be viable to the business community, you need authentication, which we do," Knopf said. Users need to be sure that the person they think they are messaging actually is that person, and they can do that by looking into directories in the organization.

Harris said safety should not be an issue. While the Internet is not totally secure, for the types of usage that Reuters is planning, "it's safe enough," Harris said. "Reuters does have a lot of expertise in running secure networks, and no doubt, it has applied that expertise" here.

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