Business Continuity Planning During a Pandemic

As the spread of COVID-19 and measures to contain it bring drastic changes to workplaces across our area, businesses must find a way to continue delivering their services while ensuring the health and safety of employees and customers. Companies looking for guidance on Business Continuity Planning (BCP) may turn to the financial sector. Banks are required to have plans for dealing with a variety of potential crises – from natural disasters to cyber-attacks, and yes, pandemics. These plans ensure core business operations can continue regardless of the circumstances.

Peoples Bank is no exception, and we operate with a singular objective: to think through and be prepared for any disaster or threat that could interrupt our business. As we take steps to protect our employees, customers, and community members from the spread of COVID-19, our BCP ensures that we can continue operating safely and soundly, even if aspects of our normal business operations must change.

Continuous Planning

Formulating and enacting a pandemic plan must be a collaborative process. Peoples Bank’s BCP team is led by executives overseeing Human Resources, Operations, and Compliance & Security. Each person has a designated set of responsibilities, and everybody knows what their role is and how to execute various pieces of the plan.

Specific to pandemic planning, business leaders should know how they will continue to function if they must adapt to a reduced workforce or continue operations in ways that prioritize the health and safety of customers and employees. We conduct annual tabletop exercises and are always evaluating the ‘what ifs.’ We’ll get a group of people from various functions of the Bank in the same room to think about w hat might go wrong and how we’d address it. We test this by periodically having groups of staff designated as sick for the day, and we try to function without them. We’ll then increase the number of people “out sick” and create solutions before problems actually present themselves.

Technology

Technology is always a cornerstone of any BCP. If the threat has knocked out systems, the focus is on how to get those functions and networks up-and-running again. In the case of a pandemic, the focus must be on enabling the business to continue delivering its services remotely. This includes ensuring that the equipment and services employees need to communicate with one another and provide services securely are readily available, operational, and employees are trained to use these remote means of communication effectively.

Yes, the logistical and organizational challenges presented by a pandemic are formidable. Having a BCP in place ensures the continuity of business operations and, in our case, provides customers access to financial services while also fostering a sense of confidence and security at an uncertain time.

Randy Fredlund is Executive Vice President and Chief Compliance and Security Officer at Peoples Bank.

Peoples Bank is a nearly 100-year-old independent, full-service community bank with $1.9 billion in assets. It operates 23 branches in Washington and serves the local community at its five office locations in Snohomish County. To schedule an appointment or learn more about Peoples Bank, please visit www.peoplesbank-wa.com.

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