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When Disaster Strikes

Intranets speed urgent communications.

By Mark Anderson

Bankers who have experienced first-hand the impact of a natural disaster fully recognize the importance of having both a business continuity plan (BCP) and disaster response (DR) plan in place for their institution. For some bankers, however (whether new to the industry or yet to see such a disaster occur), these requirements may be viewed as just another tedious regulatory box to check.

In reality, a financial institution’s BCP and DR are much more than necessary components of regulatory requirements. Rather, they are designed to help banks ensure their employees are safe following a disaster, that their customers continue to have access to their monetary funds and that the bank maintains a pathway to resume normal operations as quickly as possible.

But, even the best-laid plans will fail when not communicated properly internally. A BCP and DR are only useful if employees have quick and easy access to the information, are aware of potential or impending threats and can seamlessly communicate with each other based on the plans’ directives.

Centralized Access

Today, almost every financial institution utilizes a platform, in one form or another, to store, catalogue and share internal documents, forms, policies and procedures among staff. The most basic of these is a shared network or file drive. While many banks have utilized similar networks in the past, they do have shortcomings when it comes to helping employees quickly access information in response to a natural disaster.

Increasingly, banks are shifting toward providing employees with centralized access to internal materials, particularly BCPs and incident response plans. In a shared drive, employees may have to dig through folder after folder in order to find a BCP, but with an intranet, such materials can be quickly accessed through direct links provided on the homepage, which employees immediately see upon opening the program.

Perhaps more importantly in the wake of a natural disaster, an intranet can provide access to employees from outside the institution as well, and on any device. Regardless of location, as long as employees have a device connected to the bank’s internal network, they can continue to access their bank’s BCP and determine their next course of action.

Systematic Communications

Whether before, during or after a natural disaster, company-wide communications are critical to the safety of bank employees and customers alike. Intranets provide a means for financial institutions to immediately communicate with their employees. “Through the intranet, we provide a scrolling message board to let employees know about branch closures, incoming weather or any other issues pertaining to a disaster situation,” said Larry Schenck, IT officer for Dublin, Ga.-based Morris Bank. “It’s really our first line of defense in communicating with staff.”

A centralized intranet also enables bankers to integrate third-party apps to further increase awareness of potential threats. “Our intranet also features a widget that imports current weather conditions,” said Schenck. “It’s right on the homepage so employees can quickly check for any alerts or warnings.” Any employee actively engaging with customers can receive timely notices on impending dangers and then convey that information to their customers and the entire branch office. While this by no means replaces official emergency alerts, it has value as supplementary information and demonstrates the bank’s commitment to both customer and employee wellbeing.

When Disaster Strikes

Once a disaster is imminent or in progress, all banks turn to their BCP to determine the next best step. “The intranet is the primary host to our BCP, so first of all, we’re going to direct all of our employees there for up-to-date information, the plan itself and any important notices or updates,” said Schenck. A bank’s response is typically dependent upon the nature and scale of the disaster, but a critical element is communicating properly with employees throughout the entire disaster. “We maintain an updated list of everyone’s contact information on the intranet should we need it,” said Schenck. “This helps us know whether or not a branch has power, if it’s snowing and, of course, whether or not everyone in the branch is safe and secure.”

Bank employees are often members of the communities in which they work. While all banks play a special role in serving their community’s financial and monetary needs, their employees are just as much a part of the community as their customers. Without a proper BCP or DR plan in place, and the technology to support and streamline such endeavors, banks can easily be caught off-guard by a natural disaster, and so too can their employees.

By taking the time to ensure their technological infrastructure is sound, records up-to-date and employees aware of potential or imminent threats, banks can better prepare their employees (and even customers) for potential disasters. This minimizes the negative impact of such events and can set the bank apart as a trusted partner in the community.

Mark Anderson is CEO of Johnson City, Tenn.-based Banc Intranets, a leading provider of secure, web-based intranets and directors’ portals for financial institutions that centralize employee onboarding and training. For more information visit www.bancintranets.com.

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