It is surprising what can be achieved in a very short space of time when priorities are changed, and this seems to be a common theme with Pimfa members when discussing operational resilience during the current Covid-19 crisis.
Back in early March, those companies with a steady eye on Europe began lockdown preparations early, while for those with even a basic business continuity plan, early provision of laptops, relocating desktops to home locations or facilitating remote access via ‘home’ PCs meant that pretty much full service was maintained from the outset.
Some had initial difficulties, particularly with telephony, but these were quickly dealt with and now companies have an average of 96 per cent of staff working successfully remotely, many 100 per cent.
Those staff who remain office-located are primarily dealing with post and physical document processing, with many adapting this by, for example, redirected post being scanned and images managed electronically through workflow.
A few companies had automated or removed paper-based parts of the process before moving to a working from home environment and some outsource this function, but, for those who do not, any manual function is dealt with by emails.
All are sending the 10 per cent letters required under Mifid II in a timely manner, but those still doing so by post feel that they would like to move to electronic reporting.
After a huge initial effort, during which the main evolution was initially getting the tech in place and increasing the service capacity, many companies reported a significant rise in client contacts, inflow of funds and trading volumes, but business as usual was achieved swiftly in most cases.
Interestingly, some are also reporting a reduction in sickness absence compared with this period last year. Maintaining staff motivation and high service levels will be a continuing challenge.
Other than the problems of remaining compliant, maintaining client relationships and the integrity of internal processes, the main challenge appears to have centred on the general well-being of staff, ensuring that their work environments are as flexible as possible and, as meeting clients face-to-face is impossible at present, new business is harder to generate.
As lockdown begins to ease, most companies are acting with caution, based around government advice and the safety of staff and clients.
Only a few are actively planning for a partial return to the office this month – assuming no second spike – but this is still subject to staff being happy to return to the office; that it is safe to do so; and that the process is consistent with government guidelines.
Our industry’s resiliency capabilities have changed notably during this crisis and that will inform future planning. An increase in remote working and use of digital tools to support this are definitely on the agenda.