Wall Street's switching phones

Big banks are cutting out Blackberrys.

The Blackberry was once ubiquitous with dealmakers and senior bank execs, lauded for its impenetrable security. But no more.

Wall Street banks are looking to save big on everything from land-line voicemail to hardware and support costs that go along with providing phones to employees.

And this means either asking nicely or outright demanding that employees turn in their office-issued phones.

Business Insider has learned that JP Morgan will make virtually all staff turn in Blackberrys provided by the bank from a source that works there. It is expected to come over the next 6-12 months. JP Morgan declined to comment on the record.

But JP Morgan is not alone. Credit Suisse was the earliest adopter of Bring-Your-Own-Device, it seems. The bank has already reclaimed the majority of its work-issued smartphones.

Citigroup is also stepping up efforts to get more staffers to turn in their work mobile phones, another source said. This isn’t the first time Wall Street has flirted with the idea of ditching its formerly favourite mobile device. But it is a new twist that JP Morgan is now ready to take the Blackberries right from its bankers’ hands.

Cost is not the only driver of the phone initiative. A banking source said that some firms feel the Good Mobile email app is a better security option for employees than using Blackberries. In order to access Good Mobile email, a thief would need to first crack the password on a user’s mobile device and also crack the app’s email password.

Rumours have been flying around top banks for weeks now, and not everyone is happy about the big tech switch. This is what Business Insider has heard:

  • JP Morgan looks to be issuing a hard line on Blackberries: “There is no incentive here for giving up your Blackberry but within the next 6-12 months all will have to.”
  • At Citigroup, there isn’t any deadline in place to turn in a work-issued phone. Yet. “They have already been offering incentives to switch,” Business Insider was told. A rep for Citi had this to say: “Citi is enabling colleagues to enjoy the convenience of a single device for both business and personal purposes through a broad range of options.”
  • A banker groused at the prospect of a new monthly headache when it comes to filing expenses. “That’s going to get expensive,” if employees have to pay up for international data access and calling plans, he said.
  • There’s a bigger problem for some bankers than international data bills, though. The banker warned some could be “exposed to personal liability of my emails getting exposed if [you’re] sued as part of a deal.” But another banking source says Good Mobile is intended to provide a legal defence from exactly this kind of a situation.
  • It’s also ‘all Good’ over at Morgan Stanley. That’s the bank’s app-of-choice for staffers who turn in their work-device, according to a staffer. But, no pressure. “I’m not aware of any plans at Morgan Stanley to change our policy to mandate a ‘bring your own device’ policy,” he said.
  • With both Citigroup and JP Morgan steering staff toward the Good Mobile app, the banker said “Good basically owns corporate email right now.”
  • It was ‘all Good’ at Credit Suisse, too. The bank retrieved most of the company-issued Blackberries and transitioned to Good Mobile. But a source at the company says the bank is in the process of moving to Citrix Worxmail, but declined to provide a timetable. “We used to have 16,000 Blackberries and now we have 4,000,” at Credit Suisse, according to the person, adding that “82% of our staff use their own devices.”
  • JP Morgan and Citigroup aren’t the only big Wall Street firms dialling down Blackberry usage. A source with a large, listed private equity firm said “most folks here use their own devices” but asked they not be identified.

But Blackberry still could be in the mix with other financial firms. Business Insider also contacted Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and Deutsche Bank. None commented for this story. Blackberry, however, had this to say:

BYOD is a core strategy for BES12, BlackBerry’s EMM cross-platform solution. BES12 seamlessly supports iOS, Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry OS and BlackBerry 10 smartphones and tablets, as well as a wide range of Samsung KNOX and Android for Work smartphones and tablets.

Any notion that we have fewer devices deployed within one organisation or another misses the point. BlackBerry manages all major mobile platforms and does it more securely than our competitors. And with our Secure Work Space solution, we also secure more than 80 iOS and Android apps for enterprise customers, more than other MDM vendors (including Good Technology).

BlackBerry’s device and software strategy is focused around offering the most secure end-to-end mobile infrastructure. That means developing the most secure devices as well as the most secure management software and network. That’s why some of the largest banks, global leaders and all G7 governments choose BlackBerry.

Is your Wall Street boss trying to pry your prized handset away from you? Would you prefer he/she pried it from your cold, dead hands? Business Insider is all ears. Email us at [email protected] with details, and we’ll leave your name out of it.

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