A New Working Paradigm
- Author : Nick Raine
- Date : 16 Apr 2020
We are living in very challenging times. That’s all relative of course as those on the frontline leading the fight against COVID-19 are really having it rough and in comparison, this has been something we just have to handle and work through.
One month ago we were looking to run our latest scheduled BCP test, but in the event we just had to tear it up and throw it in the bin as moving to another site wasn’t permitted!
Instead, the management got together on a call on the Sunday morning the week before the UK went into lock down and initiated a new plan. That seems so long ago now, but we decided first to mitigate our risk in relation to key decision makers and ensure the management team were working in separate locations.
As the week moved on, more planning took place to ensure that we could respond to the predicted government directives, whilst continuing our service unaffected or with as little impact as possible.
The team were fantastic to a person, with everybody understanding the speed we needed to work at and the importance of getting it right.
‘Soft phones’ were deployed on all laptops so calls could be answered and recorded, new laptops were built and distributed with remote working software, processes were redesigned to allow checks and controls to continue operating, and communication throughout the period was key, both internal to staff and externally to advisers to provide reassurance that services would continue as near to normal as possible.
The biggest challenge was, and remains to be, how we handle post and print. Fortunately, we use a print house for our bulk printing, but those ad-hoc items that are used throughout the day needed consideration.
More requests from Advisers
As we moved into the rhythm of remote working, we saw a change of service demand from advisers as they faced their own challenges. More requests, for us to be flexible with our requirements if possible, so that instructions could be agreed, obtained and submitted, were coming in at greater speed.
We have always viewed the most important aspect of our role as being the custodian of our clients’ assets. People are entrusting us with their hard earned cash and have every right to demand that we secure and protect it. We sometimes come under criticism for seemingly asking people to jump through hoops to get their money withdrawn, but this is always to ensure that we are protecting against fraud.
Only last week we experienced an incident where a client’s email was hacked and a withdrawal attempted.
Our starting point on handling change requests is to fully understand why the control is there in the first place, then working forward we can assess the use of supplementary controls to support a revised or a completely different process to operate in this changed environment. The key point will remain that we are not compromising the security of the assets.
The challenge we didn’t expect was that of interaction and motivation.
We probably all take for granted that daily interaction within our teams – the unscheduled meetings, the ‘chewing of the fat’, and the valuable communication that takes place. Management tend to speak to each other every day, just checking in and ensuring there is nothing we need to make each aware of. Obviously that’s still possible now, but it all seems a little more ‘formal’ over Microsoft Teams calls!
Then we have had the knock on effect of motivating people and keeping them engaged and understanding what is happening. Regular team meetings have been a key element of passing information, and getting that real-time feedback is critical. Trying to get that now has proven to be difficult and different, but not impossible.
In order to maintain motivation at a distance we have organised a virtual quiz, best (that’s really worst) home haircut, most random food creation and playlist suggestions (we tried to work out a way of having a company playlist, but not everyone uses Spotify/Apple Music!).
These may seem inconsequential items and luxuries, however they are key to ensuring that moral remains in such a difficult time.
The drive for innovation and new ways of working.
The silver lining, if there is one, is the drive for innovation and new ways of working effectively. We have changed processes as mentioned above, but are also looking at scanning applications, bio-metric ID verification and a number of other initiatives to help us and our advisers and their clients.
It’s a tricky balance to keep service levels high (the team have managed to keep to all SLAs post lock-down) while we also make changes particularly at speed as we know advisers and clients need us to adapt quickly.
It’s a challenge, but one we are responding to.
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