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Innovation

Wall Street's meltdown and the potential technology hit

Folks are waking up Monday to a Wall Street meltdown as Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy, Bank of America acquired Merrill Lynch and companies ranging from Washington Mutual to AIG are on the ropes. While the technology industry is removed from this carnage it will still feel considerable ripples--some tech giants sooner than later.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor on

Folks are waking up Monday to a Wall Street meltdown as Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy, Bank of America acquired Merrill Lynch and companies ranging from Washington Mutual to AIG are on the ropes. While the technology industry is removed from this carnage it will still feel considerable ripples--some tech giants sooner than later.

Here's an early scan on the implications on the technology industry:

  • Technology vendors that rely on financial services firms will see demand dry up for the sector. Thus far, technology vendors with significant financial customers have all had the same story. Demand is holding up even if it isn't significantly growing. What happens when the financial services industry boils down to two or three big players? Right now, there are four clear survivors: Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America and J.P. Morgan. Tech spending elsewhere may go kaput. That's a lot of spending on data centers, telecommunications, software and servers either being consolidated or going away. This will impact companies ranging from Oracle to IBM to a bevy of more specialized software firms like Lawson. What will happen to those Salesforce.com accounts at Merrill Lynch, which has been taken out by Bank of America? Offshore outsourcing firms, which count financial services companies as customers, will also take a hit. And those big networking projects may be put on hold and that could impact the likes of Cisco and Juniper.
  • Infrastructure consolidation projects will last for years. In IT spending surveys demand for consultants hired by the project remains strong. That trend is likely to continue. Why? For starters, consolidation projects will be rampant and it's unclear whether there will be enough manpower to handle these moves. Consider Bank of America: It has to integrate the systems from Countrywide and now the technology of Merrill Lynch. Initially, systems will run separate, but at some point the application consolidation will become a major issue. Bank of America has a solid history integrating acquired companies, but it has some massive projects on the to-do list.
  • Project managers will be in demand. Systems integration skills will be critical and you'll need project managers to consolidate all of those applications and data centers as well as rearchitect systems.
  • The technology labor pool will increase potentially driving down wages (at least in the New York area). Developers, engineers and data center workers will all be looking for jobs as these Wall Street firms, which really hold the keys to some of the most redundant high performance computing systems around, disappear. If you're in the market for talent though it could be a good time to hire.
  • On the technology financing front all of the top IPOs will all run through Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. If there is ever another big tech IPO your underwriter choices are severely limited since there are only two big investment banks left--Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. If there was little incentive to go public before there's really nothing prodding you to do it now. Venture capitalists can effectively shut the door on IPOs as an exit strategy.

Any other impacts to note?

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