Global news group Reuters is pushing to hook up the financial services markets in Greater China to its Microsoft-powered instant messaging system, despite lingering concerns about the technology's security. Reuters Greater China managing director Kenneth Tsui Che-wai said about 200 financial institutions on the mainland and in Hong Kong and Taiwan had signed for the free-to-install service since its soft launch last month. 'We expect Reuters Messaging to serve as a catalyst for banks, brokerage houses and financial-services professionals to engage our various desktop-based financial information solutions,' he said. The service was formally introduced in Hong Kong yesterday after almost two years of co-development work between Reuters and Microsoft, as well as testing by more than 30 financial institutions including HSBC and Citigroup. Reuters will integrate this high-speed, high-security messaging system into its premium desktop service, the 300Xtra. It also plans to work with financial services customers to develop additional services and functions. 'Unlike instant messaging applications used by consumers, Reuters Messaging provides financial institutions access to a fast, encrypted and Internet firewall-compliant communications channel covering their entire enterprise and reaching out to their customers and suppliers,' Mr Tsui said. The number of registered users since last month had reached 44,370 in 98 countries. These users included 15,890 Reuters staff and 2,549 companies. 'Our global target market is 175,000 registered users by the end of this year, so we have much work to do,' said Mr Tsui. 'We also plan on getting government regulatory bodies, such as the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, as users of Reuters Messaging.' Analyst firm International Data Corp projected the number of corporate instant messaging users to reach 300 million worldwide by 2005. Consultancy and research group Gartner, however, recently said free instant messaging applications used by consumers would be found in 70 per cent of enterprises by next year, creating security risks. Risks included no guarantee of reliability, a lack of security due to operating across public networks, vulnerability to spam and a failure to meet financial services' regulatory compliance requirements. Mr Tsui said Reuters Messaging, backed by Microsoft's standards-based technology, provided specific business security and compliance requirements.