As many firms approach the one-year anniversary of remote working, people were the priority concern when discussing business continuity and contingency planning.
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“People were a focal point in any of the analysis and the activities that we performed,” said Linda McLaughlin-Moore, managing director and head of business resiliency and operating efficiency at Deutsche Bank who spoke during the Bankers Association for Finance and Trade’s (BAFT) global payments conference.
“Our contingency planning process and our rehearsals really helped us understand which functions need to perform another function in a crisis.”
The finance department was one such function that faced additional pressure, especially at the beginning of the pandemic. As cashflow management became priority, many financial directors were asked to revise cash forecasts on a more regular basis and plan for a year with many unknowns.
One scenario Deutsche Bank and the wider banking community had aggressively prepared for was for loss of life or employee incapacitation, according McLaughlin-Moore.
“The preparation that most of the banks did for loss of life actually helped enormously in identifying a couple of very critical ‘to do’s’ from a people resiliency perspective,” she said.
“Know what people are actually absolutely required. What are the priorities of the functions that they work in and what roles do they perform?”
“Also understand who is not critical, it’s not because they’re not critical normally, but they’re not critical in a contingency or resiliency situation. Redirect those people in non-critical roles in order to help enhance the productivity, as well as to fill in for missing staff that are in the critical functions.”
Damian Kuczma, former head of payment operations strategy and transformation at Santander echoed similar sentiments, with much of their resilience being planned around employee unavailability.
“A lot of our plan dialogue contemplated what happens when we lose 15 percent, what happens when we lose 25 percent, 50 percent and beyond.”
Firms need to be agile with business contingency planning, to have the ability to “fail fast” and move on, he added.
“You need to have the capability to be able to iterate as you move forward. As you’re moving into execution on these contingency plans and have some hiccups, can you quickly make some decisions and move on?”
Remote working lessons
For McLaughlin-Moore, one thing that surprised her was the amount of energy invested in providing for the mental well-being of staff.
“A bit of a ‘wow’ moment from my point of view was how much effort we had to spend in this pandemic around socialisation,” she says. “Making sure that our employees felt that we could manage and support them properly while being remote, but also that we were ensuring that we were observing and participating in the mental health of our employees.”
Burnout has been a real concern for many as the pandemic has stretched on. A survey conducted by the Harvard Business Review in the autumn found 89 percent of respondents indicated their work life was getting worse. Of those struggling to manage workload, 62 percent said they experienced burnout “often” or “very often” in the past three months. As such, it has become necessary to centre company culture around mental well-being, according to Kuczma.
“It comes down to strength of leadership.”
“Do [employees] have what they need to perform their job? More importantly, how are they with their headspace? Are they struggling with things? The leadership needs to impart that culture,” Kuczma says.
He added that metrics have a role to play in not only monitoring productivity, but also as a tool to monitor mental health.
“Can you use [metrics] as an indicator that maybe you don’t have a performance issue necessarily with a person or team, but you’ve got something else going on that you that you can ask questions about? Depending on what you have in place along those lines you can leverage those to gain some insights.”