04 December 2003

BBA president speaks out about business continuity

BBA president speaks out about business continuity:

Sir George Mathewson, chairman of the Royal Bank of Scotland and president of the British Banking Association has used the BBA’s ‘Regulating Banks in Britain’ conference to express his views on business continuity management.

“One of the things I think we should congratulate the [UK] authorities on is their response to the continuing threat of business disruption,” said Mathewson.

“I am told it is not a case of ‘if’, but ‘when’. Two years after 9/11 the power blackout on the eastern seaboard reminded us that business continuity management is not just about planning for the threats to our business that a team of suicide bombers can bring.

“But plan we have to and, as I say, the Treasury, the Bank of England and the FSA have been doing an impressive job in improving the sector's resilience behind the scenes. They have identified in some detail ahead of time how priorities and timelines, roles and responsibilities would be established, so that they could work with the market to co-ordinate collective action to get the City up and running again with as little delay as possible. In particular I would commend to you the Triparty committee's website - financialsectorcontinuity.gov.uk - which has got a lot of very useful information on it.

“I firmly believe that business continuity management is a critical element of good corporate governance. Without a strong awareness of this by the executive team there will be poor buy-in in other parts of the organisation. Business continuity management has to be integrated into all levels of our banks, into our change management processes and into our new business programmes, so that it really does become part of the culture of our institution.

“One of the key learning points from 9/11 was the need to start doing things very promptly, rather than running around like headless chickens for the first two hours. And to be able to do that we need to be able to communicate with each other. Again the authorities have been doing a good job in establishing large scale teleconferencing facilities and emergency information phone lines. And I am glad to say that the BBA has been playing its part too, by establishing a web-based, password protected contact database which would only be activated after a catastrophic event and which is designed to help people get in touch with their opposite numbers in other banks, so that we can get things going again.

“Ours is a highly competitive business, but in the area of business continuity planning it is essential that we all work together - and your trade association is providing a key communication tool to make that happen.”

We agree that corporate governance and business crisis and continuity management should be more integrated. Industry is headed in the right direction although sometimes they do need a little nudge to get to full compliance. What business will not do on it's own, government will soon follow to ensure such matters are satisfactory. Frankly, this topic is so critical that leaving it up to the government alone would be opening business up to even more regulation. Here is a nudge: As a CxO in your organization, take a quick test of your preparedness by asking your administrative staff who on the floor is trained in using an AED (Automated External Defibrillator) in case you have a heart attack? If they have an answer, go ask that person where the AED is located. If they can't answer you, then maybe that's the nudge you need. You see, there is nothing more that gets CxO's off a dime these days. A call from their lawyer and/or a little Angina Pectoris. Hopefully not in that order.

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