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Thursday, 24 August 2017 16:56

5 Signs Your Financial Services Company Needs A Business Continuity Site

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You’ve finally got the right executive management team in place. Sales are at all all-time high, projections are better, and you’re running on all cylinders. Your CIO has provided an efficient platform to support the business. You are prepared to stifle the competition.

You and your team have thought of everything. However, there may be one consideration that you are missing. How will you deal with the inevitable discontinuity that may confront your business? Terrorism, weather conditions, civil disturbances, and fire are among the considerations that may force you to have alternate plans in place. If you leave the office at the end of business on Monday evening, and the workplace is not available on Tuesday morning, how will you conduct business? How will you interface with your customers, and more importantly, how will you prevent them from directing themselves to your competition? The answer is obvious, and rather simple. You need to have a business continuity plan, and to maintain an alternate site to do business in the event of a disruption. If you’re not doing the following, you are putting your company in real jeopardy.

During more than a dozen years in which I served as senior vice president of operational risk management at AXA Equitable, an insurance giant, we were faced with eight significant crises. Five of these involved loss of use of a principal facility. The major culprit was weather, but I was sure that we had appropriate plans in place to deal with any eventuality. Fortunately, we were able to sustain the business with no interruption in all these instances due to extensive prior planning.

Here are five key considerations to building a strong business continuity plan:

1. Conduct a business impact analysis

What are the core functions of your firm that have little or no tolerance for downtime? Obviously, your customer-facing functions fall within this category, but there are also a host of financial functions which do as well. At the conclusion of this analysis you should determine the number of “seats” to allocate to each critical business area. Remember that support functions such as Procurement, Facilities, and Human Resources can be critical in sustaining business operations, and also in the process of getting you back on your feet.

2. Identify a business continuity plan (BCP) strategy

You’ve identified the critical pieces of your operation. Now it’s time to be able to staff these functions at an alternate location. For example, if you’ve determined that your treasurers department needs to be allocated 24 workstations, you’ve got to build these “seats” at an alternate location, appropriately geographically dispersed from your primary location. The desktop at each seat must be individually imaged with the applications and software to enable that function to perform.

Determine whether you want to host your own BCP plan, or outsource. Outsourcing is generally more expensive. We hosted our own plan. I preferred self-hosting because we were operating in a company owned facility, with our own equipment. We had complete control of the space, and also the quality of the data residing on the desktops. I felt that we controlled our own destiny.

Again, ensure that your BCP site is a proper distance from your primary site. It should also be supported by a generator. On 9/11, a number of Wall Street firms found that their BCP sites, also located in Downtown NYC locations, were not inhabitable due to an area-wide lockdown in the aftermath of the tragedy. Ensure that you have a transportation plan to get employees to the recovery site.

3. Practice, practice, practice ...

The only thing worse than not having a plan, is having one, and not being able to properly execute. In 2004, NYC hosted the Republican National Convention. The two largest hotels in the city were occupied by a large number of convention delegates. Based upon reports that the delegates may be targeted at these locations, and the residual impact due to our proximity, a determination was made to run the business for two weeks from our recovery site. The feared protests never materialized, but in the end, we conducted an exercise which validated our crisis management and BCP programs. On an annual basis, we conducted an all-hands BCP drill. This continued to validate the functionality of our plan, and contributed to the overall “buy-in.”

I’ve often told my employees that we were in the business of sales. Our job was to convince our internal business folks to supporta mandate of preparedness in addition to their core responsibilities. This mindset ultimately became part of our culture.

4. Develop a remote access program

This is a great complement to your recovery site. It enables you to bring more people back to work quickly. Do an inventory of those employees who are assigned laptops. For employees not assigned laptops, remote access software enables employees to mirror a workplace computer via their home desktop. This is also a useful strategy for instances where employees are not able to travel due to weather or other conditions.

5. Communications

I believe that communication is the single most important aspect of crisis management. Effective communication helps to control the intensity of a crisis. Employees can be directed, and kept in the loop with an automated notification system, such as Onsolve or Everbridge. Crisis managers, who previously depended on manual process, can now use a tool, GroupDoLists, which serves as a repository for all BCP and CM documentation. It pushes out tasking to team members during a crisis, and reports their progress in real time. An effective way to keep executive management in the loop on their smartphone or laptop.


A 26-year career in the Secret Service has infused a mindset of preparedness. The keys to success in this discipline are advanced preparations, training, and the smart use of technology. I strongly believe that companies seeking a competitive edge must be prepared to deal with unforeseen events. Every move a business makes is transparent today. Customers watch how your company is handled in a crisis. If your company fumbles a disaster, your customer may decide to shop elsewhere.

Author Info:
Dowling PeterPeter Dowling, 26-year veteran of the Secret Service, 12 years in operations risk management with AXA. Today, Dowling works as a special advisor to the CEO for GroupDoLists, Powered By Centrallo.