Facing a Pandemic: What Community Banks and Credit Unions Should Do to Combat COVID-19
As the Coronavirus pandemic continues to rise throughout the world, it is important for community banks and credit unions to effectively carry out their pandemic plans to stop the spread of the virus and implement alternative ways to serve customers or members during this critical time. Safe Systems held a webinar last week covering five things all community banks and credit unions need to do during a pandemic. In this blog, we’ll cover a few of the key points from the webinar.
- Pandemic Testing
According to the Federal Financial Institution Examination Council (FFIEC) guidelines, financial institutions need to have a “testing program designed to validate the effectiveness of the facilities, systems, and procedures identified” in their business continuity plan. In a pandemic, it is the people who are affected more than the facilities, so your systems and processes become more impacted than anything else.
A preventative program has to address:
- Monitoring outbreaks
- Educating and providing appropriate hygiene training and tools to employees
- Communicating with customers and members
- Coordinating with critical providers and suppliers
With the pandemic already underway, it can feel counterproductive to conduct a pandemic test for your financial institution. However, we’ve found it’s never too late to test and improve your pandemic plan, even in the midst of a crisis. Make sure you are validating your succession plan and cross training measures by purposely excluding certain key individuals from actively participating in the testing exercises you conduct for your institution. During a pandemic, important individuals may not be in the branch or available every day, so it’s important that you test your plan to make sure the institution can still operate efficiently.
- Social Distancing
Social distancing is a term that’s come out of this global pandemic to stop the spread of the virus. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) states that individuals should keep a six-foot minimum distance from others to limit the spread of the virus, but how does this impact the way your financial institution does business? Think of how your teller line, customer service areas, lending offices, etc. are set up. For these more personal, face-to-face interactions, it is important for you to change the location set up to ensure the 6-foot distance is achieved to protect both the customer and employee. Here are some tips from the American Bankers Association® to consider:
- Require non-customer facing personnel work from home and try limiting interactions of personnel as much as possible in offices.
- Have staff sign in when they arrive and leave.
- Designate times for “at risk” customers (because of age or condition) to visit the lobby when no others are allowed.
- Make loans or open new accounts by appointment only. When you close a lobby, designate one drive-thru for business customers and one for consumers, as their transactions are very different and differentiating the two can help speed transactions.
- Keep your messaging positive. Don’t not use the word “Closed” on your door or website; instead use “Appointments Available.” Remind customers that banks are never truly closed, thanks to online and digital platforms that provide customers with 24/7 access to their accounts.
We are posting tips, resources, and FAQs from ABA, FDIC, NCUA, and our own Safe Systems’ experts on the homepage of our website.
- Security in Social Distancing
For employees that are able to work from home, providing resources for working outside of the institution is another great option to keep staff and the public protected. If your staff members are working from home, here are a few things to consider to ensure the institution maintains both security and productivity.
- Do your employees have enough bandwidth at home?
- Do you have a dedicated VPN device?
- Do you have a firewall to allow this connection?
- Can the firewall/device handle the number of devices actively connecting remotely at one time?
- Do you have enough licenses (if needed) for each user to connect remotely?
When your staff is working from home, you still must worry about security. You will need to decide how they connect to your network, what device they use, and how that device is secured. For instance, if you are allowing an employee to use their personal computer, then reference your remote access policy. It should include rules for the appropriate cyber hygiene of the remote device (patching, antimalware, etc.), and should be signed by the end-user. OpenDNS offers free security options for DNS lookups on home computers, which is also a good consideration should you need to update or create a home PC access policy and requirements. You may also require multi-factor authentication as an additional precaution to keep the network secure.
Financial institutions provide critical services to their communities and must be able to support customers and have alternate ways of doing business during a pandemic.
If you would like to gain more insights on COVID-19 and listen to a brief Q&A from our compliance team and information security officer, download our recorded webinar, “5 Things Community Banks and Credit Unions Need to do During a pandemic.”
As many community banks and credit unions are still formulating their responses to the pandemic, we’d like to collect and share what steps financial institutions are actively taking to protect employees and customers while maintaining business operations. Please take a few minutes to complete this survey and tell us how your institution is responding to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.