How Banks Prepare for Possible Events or Emergencies
Banks in Canada understand that they have a responsibility to safeguard customer’s money on a day-to-day basis as well as through any sort of event or emergency, such as acts of nature, health crises, systems or power failures, or even criminal or terrorist activities. All banks have extensive business continuity plans in place to deal with events that could impact banking operations. They constantly monitor emerging issues and review, test and update these plans to prepare for any foreseen or unforeseen events that could arise. In fact, the banks’ plans and the banking industry’s well-established protocols for cooperation and mutual support were successful in dealing with previous disruptions, including the Quebec ice storm, the SARS outbreak in Toronto and the blackout of 2003 in parts of Eastern Canada.
In preparing for any event, the priorities for the banks are the health and safety of bank employees and customers and the continued delivery of essential banking services.
In each of the banks’ business continuity plans, they anticipate what possible events or emergencies might occur, and then outline how the bank would deal with the situation, looking at this like human resources policies and procedures and systems issues. These plans are constantly being revised. The challenge is to ensure that plans are robust enough to be implemented at any time, but flexible enough to adapt to a particular situation as it changes.
Generally, planning is done at three levels:
- Bank Level — Each bank’s business continuity plan identifies critical functions needed to maintain banking services, such as cross-training employees and building redundancies into the system to ensure that banking services will continue to be available throughout every stage of a possible emergency. Other steps that could be taken include travel restrictions, limiting face-to-face meetings, and determining how key employees could work from home or alternate work sites if necessary.
- Industry Level — Banks are very inter-connected and are constantly processing transactions amongst each other. The banking industry works in cooperation to deal with the broader issues around business continuity and also works with external organizations, such as health officials, government agencies, regulators and other industries to share information and best practices.
- Supplier Level — Banks rely on external service providers and suppliers, so the industry ensures that suppliers are prepared to continue to provide these necessary services to banks in the event of an event or emgergency.
The Canadian Bankers Association brings the banks together to share information and work with other external organizations to assess the impact of any type of event on the delivery of services to customers. Through the CBA, the banking industry also communicates with health and other government officials, regulators and other industries to ensure that plans are in place to deal with events if and when necessary.