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A monster financial operation quietly grows roots in Tampa

(Sung to the tune Walking On Sunshine)

I used to live up North where the buildings reached up to the sky

Ride the subway or ferry or hail a yellow cab passing by

I'd run to catch the 6:23 and have to stand all the way

Just a dreamin' of moving down south to the sweet Tampa Bay

Now I'm walking on sunshine, wo ah

New lyrics sung by the Southern Sounds of DTCC choir at Wednesday's five-year celebration of Depository Trust & Clearing Corp.'s arrival in Tampa.

TAMPA

Ribbon cuttings, groundbreakings and feel-good anniversaries rarely top my got-to-be-there agenda.

DTCC's energy-charged gig Wednesday at a secure facility near Interstate 75 and Bruce B. Downs was a worthy exception — and not just for the music.

First things first. DTCC stands for Depository Trust & Clearing Corp., a Manhattan financial processing juggernaut. It handles the bulk of clearing U.S. securities trades and tracks their ownership.

After a national search, in 2005 DTCC chose Tampa for its Southern Business Center. The idea was to decentralize DTCC from its HQ 10 blocks from the World Trade Center which, after the 9/11 attacks in 2001, felt too vulnerable.

Now DTCC Tampa's 530 employees can handle the firm's business from here, if needed. Last year, Tampa settled U.S. securities transactions worth $1.5 quadrillion.

Visiting from Manhattan, DTCC's CEO Don Donahue noted the firm's challenges amid Wall Street's tumult. When Lehman Bros. failed in the fall of 2008, he said, DTCC found itself with $500 billion to wind down in securities trades still on Lehman's books and all guaranteed by DTCC. It was, Donahue said, "the largest liquidation in U.S. history."

Amid aggressive Wall Street reform efforts now under way, DTCC executives are trying to educate Washington on making complex legislative and regulatory changes for the better. A key area of concern: Finding ways to make global derivatives trading more transparent, more standardized and less political.

It all sounds obscure here in sunny Tampa Bay. But these are the core issues that must be hammered out if we really want to reduce systemic risk and improve the odds against further financial meltdowns.

With such head-throbbing problems to solve, you'd think DTCC employees would be a geeky crew of techies and accountants. Consider that cliche shattered. DTCC's atrium was jam packed with enthused employees, a diverse crowd all wearing bright yellow T-shirts. (Five years ago, the T-shirts were orange.)

You should have heard Wednesday's choir. It rocked with Walking On Sunshine, adding new lyrics about relocating from New York to Tampa. Like this verse:

I used to be frightened by the thunder, lightning and rain

Or the mighty southern winds a blowing just call them by name

But I quickly realized that there was nothing (pause)

Nothing to fear no-no-no

Now it's beaches, palm trees, daiquiri's & Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Whoa! Yeah, yeah

I'm walking on sunshine, wa oh

How often can you seamlessly blend derivatives and daiquiris, or big bucks and the Bucs? It's a win-win here.

Robert Trigaux can be reached at trigaux@sptimes.com.

A monster financial operation quietly grows roots in Tampa 05/26/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 6:42pm]
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