As we all strive to meet the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, we find ourselves in a new normal due to the uncertainty surrounding the virus and our ability to respond. The good news is that community financial institutions (CFIs) have plans to deal with disaster events like a pandemic. These plans have provided the foundation for FIs’ pandemic response.
As a consultant and strategist in the business continuity/disaster recovery preparedness arena, I have helped develop, test, maintain, and execute business continuity plans (BCPs) for many organizations.
In my 20-year tenure with Jack Henry, my focus has been primarily on assisting community banks and credit unions, who are required to have effective BCPs, and develop and test their plans.
Since I work closely with CFIs on creating their plans, I was curious to see how they were holding up and if there was anything insightful they’ve learned. I reached to a number of the banks and credit unions I’ve worked with over the years and asked a set of questions to learn more about their response to the pandemic.
These measures include improved work from home capabilities, with meetings held virtually. Business travel is restricted for employees who regularly travel. For employees who are still working on-site, measures have been taken, such as closing the lobbies and having necessary transactions occur on an appointment-only basis and relocating employees to other locations to support social distancing guidelines.
As far as pay goes, CFIs have established various pandemic pay policies. Some are paying for time off for one or more of the following: illness, necessary child or family care or "high risk" situations. Others are waiting to see what Congress will pass or requiring employees to use sick/personal days.
To protect customers and members, banks and credit unions are requiring employees to wear gloves and masks in some cases and have also increased the frequency of cleaning, including the door handles, surface areas, phones, chairs, VAT tubes, etc. Some branches have even switched to strictly drive-thru operations. Those who haven’t are accepting customers and members on an appointment basis and limiting customer movement within the location itself.
Some financial institutions are also disinfecting after each customer departs. Others are utilizing infrared thermometers to scan customers/employee’s forehead before entering the facility.
CFIs have encouraged customers or members to use digital channels and have also extended ITM hours. They’re monitoring ATMs/ITMs in order to replenish cash when needed. In some cases, banks and credit unions have designated separate drive thru lanes for business and consumer interactions.
Many have waived transaction fees on services and late payments but have also issued daily withdrawal amounts for customers. Other banks and credit unions have increased daily loan amounts. These changes have resulted in increase in phone traffic having to do with assurance of funds, loan deferments and increase lines of credit, account transfers, etc.
CFIs are prioritizing vendors in terms of need and then those vendors that need to gain access by appointment. Those vendors who don’t need access deliver packages to the doorstep.
Some banks and credit unions even developed a list of back-up vendors for services if their primary vendors are unable to deliver services. Others report that all of their vendors are very supportive, and all services are currently available.
On their BCP:
On general preparedness:
On customers and members:
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