Fintech Insights

Be prepared to be caught off guard

Jim Johnson | Head of Financial Institution Payments and Wealth, FIS

May 04, 2020

The current Coronavirus pandemic will echo through history as a prime example of why preparedness by financial institutions (FIs) is so essential. But how can an organization fully prepare for an event such as this? Well the honest answer is you cannot. It is impossible to fully prepare for something of this magnitude which has rocked the world’s economy and has turned the world’s largest cities into temporary ghost towns.

COVID-19 is unfortunately not the last of these “Black Swan” events that we may still see in our lifetime. That is why it is crucial to learn from what has already happened and to have a strategic plan in place to fight against the event. By focusing on employees, arming themselves with the right technologies and developing a focused, transparent plan, financial institutions can stand a chance against these inevitable crisis’.

Employees are key to weathering the storm

It is the employees who are on the front lines that are servicing clients, representing the business, and who are the true face of the company in times such as these. It is critical to keep employees in a strong state of mental health as the fear of the unknown is unsettling and stressful. This means that your organization needs to show tremendous adaptability and be able to adjust work schedules, meeting times, etc. in order to meet the new normal. Not only do FIs need to be flexible, but they also need to keep employees updated with every new development in the situation and how the organization is adapting to it on a national, local, financial, and human level. Organizations cannot assume that employees are able to sift through the avalanche of information and pick up on key messaging, so establishing transparent communications at a consistent time keeps employees aware and in turn helps them assist your clients. By making employee health, both mental and physical, the top priority, FIs will see the benefits through customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Focus on customers through technology

Regardless of the situation, financial institutions need to ensure their customers that their money is safe and that they can still use it how they want. Trust in your brand is paramount during a Black Swan Event and a financial technology provider needs to ensure consistency, stability, and safety for both their FIs and consumers. That means that alignment with these providers needs to be stronger than ever before to keep systems and solutions at 100%. The same omni-channel solutions that banks provide customers need to be available without a single hitch in the process. During a Black Swan event, consumer trust is tested to its maximum and the brands that rise to the occasion will be known for being an organization centered on doing the right things for its clients.

Preparation is 9/10 of the law

The old saying is that “Possession is 9/10 of the law”. However, when talking with my own leadership team as well as when I address my organization as a whole, I like to adjust the saying to “Preparation is 9/10 of the law” When I say this, I am reminding employees that if you are properly prepared for an event, meeting, project, etc. you dramatically increase your ability to adapt to the Black Swan event. I mentioned earlier that there really isn’t a way to be 100% prepared for a Black Swan event and that is true. The reason for the name “Black Swan” is that these events are so unpredictable, so no preparation plan will be perfect. That is why organizations need a dedicated crisis team, filled with representatives from across the organization, whose entire mandate is to adapt to the unpredicted impacts of the situation. It’s a team that has processes and governance prebuilt to try and handle the unexpected shock of the event. This team will be stressed to the maximum during each new development that occurs, however, the ability to take lessons learned from each crisis and adjust your action plan accordingly will lighten the impact. By being fully transparent about this plan with employees, customers, business partners, etc. financial institutions can potentially limit what can go wrong to just that last 1/10.