Share this post:
The COVID-19 pandemic is one of those rare civilizational disruptions that is profoundly affecting nearly all human institutions. Organizations are scrambling to respond to threats to the health and safety of their stakeholders, and to grapple with new constraints and shifting realities in this crisis.
While the human toll of the pandemic is unequivocally a tragedy that surpasses any damage done to enterprises and institutions, it’s still important for organizations to pause and consider how readiness and response strategies can help them avoid some of the pitfalls that many organizations are facing in this difficult time.
Even in these challenging times IBM believes that institutions will continue to be expected to meet their regulatory obligations and to manage and innovate their stringent risk and compliance frameworks. In that spirit, IBM hosted a virtual RegTech Summit, bringing together leading thinkers in the risk and compliance space to discuss how companies should deal with risk in precisely the kind of scenario that all organizations are now experiencing with regard to COVID-19. The goal of the summit was to discuss how organizations ought to deal with the current situation, and how they should approach risk in general. The panel discussed how financial institutions in particular are coping with these challenges and using innovative risk management programs, methodologies, and advisory services to manage risk, fight financial crimes, maintain business continuity, and improve processes and outcomes.
The panel opened with a discussion about how IBM has been responding to the pandemic. First and foremost, IBM has focused on the safety and security of its employees by accelerating work-from-home capabilities and educating team members about best practices for work during times of suggested social isolation.
IBM has also spent over $200 million to date toward addressing challenges posed by the COVID-19. For example, they’ve partnered with 19 other companies and 14 industry-leading science communities to develop a High Performance Computing Consortium, which leverages 360 petaflops of computing power to support COVID-19 research. IBM is also delivering information via the Weather Channel app and Weather.com, drawn from trusted data sources from state and local governments, the World Health Organization, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, helping users to track the virus. The company released IBM Watson Assistant for Citizens, a virtual assistant that can help large civic institutions handle high volumes of stakeholder queries on the subject of COVID19. More detail on these and other initiatives can be found at ibm.com/covid19.
In a time where the day-to-day is anything but “business as usual,” it’s up to leaders in business continuity to plan for and respond to disruptive events that threaten to derail crucial business functions. Michael Puldy, IBM’s Director of Business Continuity, contributed his perspective to the conversation, using the COVID-19 challenge as a means of testing the organization’s risk awareness in general. He broke down the core challenges into three categories.
- What happens when the workplace is unavailable?
- What happens when the workforce is unavailable
- What happens when IT resources are unavailable?
In a sense, said Puldy, the current crisis can be seen as the “World Cup” for Business Continuity Management (BCM). The goal is to proactively plan ways to route around roadblocks in these categories, which sometimes occur in tandem with one another, so that the organization can do right by its employees, clients and stakeholders.
“Don’t necessarily try to solve the pandemic issue, but look at an event with a more holistic perspective,” says Michael.
What happens when you have all these three scenarios — workforce unavailable, workplace unavailable, and IT unavailable — all happening at the same time? How can you move back and forth to accommodate your recovery and maintain an element of business continuity?
Solutions include work from home policies and technologies, comprehensive documentation as well as testable response processes. Clearly defined chains of command, action plans, and knowledge bases can help teams respond quickly and effectively to unforeseen challenges.
Andrew Yuille, VP of Partnerships and Alliances at Thomson Reuters discussed the task force that the company developed to provide resources to their community. As a leading provider of business information services, the company is well-positioned to provide insights for many industries facing the COVID-19 crisis.
Thomson Reuters’ regulatory intelligence platform monitors the activities of regulators so that they can inform their customers about the high volume of regulatory changes. They’re also working with digital channels to help identify fake news and common scams, not limited to the world of finance. These include bogus investments, “miracle” cures, stimulus-themed phishing schemes, charity scams, price gouging and other criminal activities.
“It’s very easy to get flanked, both as businesses and individuals, while we’re focused on the particular crisis in front of us,” says Andrew. “Actually, all the old issues are out there. Some of them have got new labels on the outside . . . but they’re the same old scams.” In an effort to educate the public, the company has also developed a free COVID-19 resource center.
Michael Dawson, Managing Director at Promontory Financial Group, provided insight into the future regulatory climate in the U.S. and abroad. Governments are currently working to implement stimulus measures, such as the huge number of payments to individuals and loans to small businesses. In the short term, many governments are employing some form of temporary regulatory relief to ease the burden. The U.S. federal government has deferred a new risk and control framework, and an EU regulator deferred a critical report. But banks and other institutions shouldn’t rely too heavily on such relief. Such organizations should expect increased scrutiny on consumer protection requirements, for example mortgage borrower protections and forbearance for active military service members.
“With such a massive event, and such a massive impact on so many people around the world, the volumes are going to be huge,” says Michael. “No matter how well-intentioned you may be in terms of wanting to comply, the actual act of complying with the requirements in the volume spike can be a real challenge.” It will be crucial for these companies to pay close attention to the latest regulatory developments in the places in which they operate.
In the financial industry, security measures must be implemented to ensure work-from-home trading activity is performed in a manner compliant with financial regulations. Promontory is in “all hands on deck” mode to enable remote work, even in sensitive areas where data security is paramount, for example, for employees who monitor financial behavior in order to spot money laundering and terrorist financing.
The threats businesses face in the current crisis are often the same old problems that they’ve always faced, only now there is more distraction. Insurance fraud, financial scams, cybersecurity threats, hacking and phishing are just a few of the security challenges that continue to threaten individuals and businesses – as they have since the advent of digitally networked commerce and finance. It’s crucial that risk and compliance departments don’t let COVID-19 issues prevent them from being aware of usual dangers.
To learn more about COVID-19 readiness and response, visit ibm.com/covid19. To learn more about how IBM’s RegTech solutions can help, visit ibm.com/regtech.
Author: David Marmer, VP, Offering Management, IBM Watson FSS