As the outbreak of a novel of coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to unfold, FHLBank Atlanta has compiled some recommendations that you may share with your customers, shareholders, and employees regarding the novel coronavirus or any other type of pandemic situation.
The Bank has contingency plans in place for business continuity and stands ready to serve you as a reliable source of liquidity. If you have questions at any time, please contact the Funding Desk at 1.800.536.9650, ext. 8011.
Coronavirus – Seven Critical Steps to Take Now
1. Convene a cross-functional crisis response team to make informed decisions.
This team should include representatives from different areas of your business such as human resources, legal, operations, retail, and lending. The team should consider all aspects of vulnerabilities and preparedness for situations that would cause disruption. Examples could include facility closures, employee health concerns, travel delays, and potential postponement or cancellation of business, shareholder, or other meetings. Now is the time to convene this group so you can plan ahead.
2. Dust off your policies.
Take a look at your approved regulatory policies – including disaster recovery, business continuity, or specific pandemic policies – and ensure they are up to date and appropriate for this situation. You will also want to ensure any specific policies provide you with flexibility in your response to accommodate unforeseen issues. If these policies are not current, be sure to update them. Your cross functional team or an assigned senior leader in your financial institution should drive this process.
3. Only use trusted and credible sources for coronavirus information.
We are relying on reports, best practices, and guidance from the CDC and the Department of State as our primary sources of information to aid in decision making. Both are rooted in science rather than speculation, which is critical at this time.
4. Increase sanitary practices.
Given that your branches are places of high interaction with multiple surfaces, review your cleaning processes for the health and safety of your employees and customers. Employees and customers will appreciate your concern and any extra precautions that should be taken. Communicate best practices from the CDC such as encouraging employees who feel ill to stay home, frequently washing hands with soap for at least 20 seconds, coughing and sneezing into a tissue or elbow and away from others, regularly cleaning and disinfecting touched objects with a wipe, and avoiding touching eyes, nose, and mouth. Post easily visible flyers and posters to reinforce healthy behaviors and reassure customers while providing hand sanitizing stations at your entrances.
5. Communicate proactively and with a sense of calm.
There is a tremendous amount of news every day and your employees might have differing levels of concern. If you have not already communicated with employees, you should consider letting them know you are monitoring the situation, stress that their safety and wellbeing is your top priority, and encourage them to seek informed and vetted information. You do not need to assume the role of an expert in this situation; it is more effective to provide employees easy access to public health resources. Any preventive measures that impact the workplace (e.g., deeper cleaning measures at desks and in common areas) should be communicated clearly to employees. Briefing employees of the extra measures being taken to protect them will eliminate unknowns and help to put them at ease in the workplace. You will also want to prepare your employees on what they should say should they get questions from customers.
6. Emphasize the benefits of technology.
Given our industry’s drive to increase mobile banking, this is a good time to help your customers consider the ease and agility mobile banking offers for personal banking needs. In addition, access to mobile banking will be crucial operationally should there be any disruptions that prevent access to your branches. This may also be an opportunity to encourage commercial customers with large volumes of checks to utilize remote deposit capture if they have not already.
7. Be flexible and nimble.
As the COVID-19 situation evolves, Harvard Business Review recommends an iterative approach to contingency planning. Frequently take stock of the situation and adjust course as necessary (just be sure to stay within approved policies). Even if you decide against changing policies, it can be valuable for employees to know that you are deliberating and considering updates. In a situation as fluid as this outbreak, flexibility is not indecisiveness.
A final word: transparency is important to your customers, employees, and others as you move through this process. Commit to clear and consistent communication as you prepare, and if necessary, once you make any operational adjustments as a result of COVID-19.