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Make Your Credit Union Business Resilient

21/01/2019


When disaster strikes, successful businesses have plans in place not only to survive but to spring back into operation as soon as possible. From replacing equipment and services to covering staff and contracts with vendors, business resiliency planning takes a holistic view on getting back to business while protecting your reputation.

Credit unions are no different than other organizations when it comes to the need for business resiliency and ensuring business continuity plans are in place. What sets you apart is your unique structure as a financial institution run by and for its members. Any disruption — from flood to fraud — that affects you impacts the community and members you serve, making it imperative to have a current, actionable and pragmatic plan in place.

The Bigger Picture

All business continuity plans include key steps to address the initial disruption, work through it and resume normal operations afterwards. However, when updating or creating a plan, it is important for you to understand the difference between an isolated organizational business disruption and one that also impacts your community. Your role in both cases shifts in focus and practice, as will your strategy.

A business continuity plan deals with preparing for, dealing with and recovering from organization-specific events such as a cyber security breach, burst water pipe, employee fraud or unexpected loss of a key executive. The focus here is solely on your credit union and how to resume operations with minimum losses — of profits and members, while protecting your reputation. The bottom line is that no matter the reason, when a member can’t access their funds, their tolerance level is zero.

Community Focus

During events such as natural disasters, one of your biggest goals is to support your community. Your priorities are to plan for the safety of your staff and people on site, support the community and enable members’ access to funds.

In a large urban centre, members can access funds from numerous outlets. But in smaller communities, your credit union might only have one branch. If members can’t access funds, that can have a huge impact and add unnecessary stress and concern during a highly stressful time. You need to know how members can get their money if they can’t access their branch and be able to communicate that effectively.

This makes it critical to collaborate with agencies, associations and other companies within your community — credit unions know your members and their needs. By collaborating with other organizations during a community disaster, you can quickly connect your members with the services they need.

You can also work with agencies to designate the credit union as a donation drop off centre, establish a process to set aside space, assign coordinators and establish guidelines for donations and distribution.

Plan, Exercise, Maintain

Business disruptions can arise from community disasters such as fires, floods, pandemic threats, etc. while organizational business disruptions can be physical — from a building fire, power outage etc. to IT issues which can shut down computer systems and operations — such as a system crash or cyber ransom attack. Key steps for an effective business continuity plan to address any type of disruption include:

  • Identify your communication process – Ensure the communication process to internal and external vendors and stakeholders during a disruption is documented and clearly understood. Assign leaders and teams, then clarify roles and responsibilities. Ensure the plan is shared and understood across your organization and with key external vendors and stakeholders.
  • Identify key business resumption strategies – Identify your critical processes, when they need to be up and running and what you need to support them. This includes work location, internal people, IT systems, equipment and external third-party service providers. Timing for certain processes should also be considered: are there automatic payments that will have to be made, do cheques need to be signed off, how will your people/vendors/lease agents get paid — all these issues need to be incorporated into your plan.
  • Exercise and Ongoing Maintenance – Once developed, exercise the plan within your unique environment and make sure it is kept up to date so that it is actionable. Changes to staff, processes, technologies and use of physical space can negatively impact your ability to continue operations if not incorporated into your business continuity plan.
  • Get Insured – Make sure you have the right insurance policy in place, including cyber insurance, and have experts in place to assess the credit union’s assets, prior to and after a disruption​. Work with experienced valuators when following through on an insurance claim to help determine the true cost of loss to your credit union.


​For more information on effective business resiliency planning for your credit union, contact Tara Tobler, Senior Manager, Enterprise Risk Services – Business Resilience, at 403.537.8436 or [email protected].