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Chief Compliance Officer Stuart Evans and Director of Technology Stefan Ludlow discuss how business continuity plans can bolster a practice’s resiliency.
Resilient—a powerful word that describes our country, clients, colleagues, and even our practices. 2020 has taught us many life lessons, including the importance of business continuity plans (BCPs) that can be adapted “on the fly.” It’s also apparent a practice’s BCP must look beyond finite periods, such as power outages and natural disasters, to support a potential paradigm shift in how the firm operates. No one could have predicted a pandemic would alter business models as much as they have, and we should take this as an opportunity to re-evaluate, adjust and ensure we are prepared for the future.
Based on our firm’s experience during the pandemic, an effective BCP should incorporate the following elements to help maintain ordinary business operations under extraordinary conditions:
With employees dispersed and working remotely, a strong communication network is vital. The right technology and practices can mean all the difference in providing timely service to clients. Zoom, Microsoft Teams, daily meetings and weekly wrap-ups are effective ways to help employees stay connected. That said, you should choose methods that align with your practice’s unique needs and structure.
Just as employees need to prepare for remote work, your IT infrastructure also needs to be ready. Moving infrastructure, such as servers, file shares and email, to the cloud in advance of enacting a BCP provides employees with access to resources regardless of location.
A BCP that hasn’t prepared employees for the possibility of remote work, either short- or long-term, puts them at a disadvantage. The more you test your BCP remote environment and train employees to operate independent of physical location, the easier it is to pivot business operations with limited service disruptions. It also helps ensure a seam-less experience for your clients.
A remote work environment expands your firm’s exposure to cybersecurity threats. So it’s essential to have a cybersecurity plan that complements and protects your BCP. Employees working remotely can easily fall victim to an attack if they haven’t been trained about the potential risks. Ongoing cyber-security training and testing are critical. Your employees are your firm’s first line of defense.
Having a comprehensive BCP is worthless if it’s not exe-cuted properly—that starts with your leadership team. They have to embrace the plan before they can manage it through a disruption. This is true for all firms, small and large. Consider creating a BCP committee comprised of senior managers from different teams. This approach has worked well for us. The committee can oversee the plan’s implementation, communicate with employees, manage expectations, and adjust when the unexpected occurs. Through proper execution, your BCP can bolster your practice’s resiliency.
How do you know your BCP is working? When it feels like business as usual to your employees and your clients and not a BCP.
Stu is the Chief Compliance Officer for Cerity Partners. As Chief Compliance Officer, he is responsible for all aspects of the firm’s compliance program and adherence with the Investment Advisers Act of 1940. He has more than twenty-six years of experience in the financial services industry, serving in both compliance and operational roles.
Prior to joining Cerity Partners, Stu served as Chief Compliance Officer at EMM Wealth and SAGE Advisors, managing all aspects of both firms’ compliance and cybersecurity programs. In addition to serving on the investment committee and cybersecurity risk committee, Stu integrated EMM Wealth’s technology into its operational and reporting workflows.
Stu obtained his Investment Adviser Certified Compliance Professional (IACCP®) designation from National Regulatory Services and the Investment Adviser Association. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in History from Randolph Macon College.
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