With bird flu outbreaks cropping up from Europe to Asia, scientists say the new pattern of spreading infection makes a worldwide human pandemic more likely. So how well prepared are U.S. financial firms for a pandemic? Well, 2,775 financial firms recently took part in a drill to try and answer that very question.The U.S. Treasury, together with SIFMA and the Financial and Banking Information Infrastructure Committee (FBIIC) held a 3-week pandemic drill for the financial services industry, giving enough time to simulate a full pandemic wave and clarify its ripple effects within the markets and interdependent sectors.
Preliminary results of the three-week long exercise were mixed.
While 63.9% of respondents said they had a business continuity plan, 56.2% said their plan was only moderately effective during the drill.
"This could be anything - a problem with procedures, or communication," suggests Steve Crowe, Head of U.S. Sales for the Trading Systems business within BT Global Financial Services.
Meanwhile, 28% of firms said their plan was minimally effective and 3.8% found that their plan was not at all effective.
Still, 96.9% said the exercise allowed their organization to identify critical dependencies, gaps, and seams that warrant additional attention.
91.1% said they would make additional refinements to their plans based on lessons learned.
When asked what steps their organizations were taking to ensure they are meeting business and regulatory obligations during the height of the pandemic, 54.5% said establish work at home capabilities and 40.8% said divide units and disperse.
"There are two or three scenarios where you really need to have good business continuity," says Crowe.
"There's the pandemic type, with lots of sick people working from home from silos, without coming into the office. You also have the situation of a steam pipe blowing up on Lexington and people not being able to get into the building."
In big disasters, financial communities come together, Crowe adds. "But if it's just you or your building, others don't feel the need to help you out. They tend to descend on you like a band of rabid dogs and try to eat your dogs."
People must think, "Do we have an alternate site? And who are the important people in the company who should go there if there is a disaster? If you have 1000 traders but only 650 recovery desks, who will go?" Since last July's steam pipe explosion in New York City, interest in business continuity has spiked, Crowe says.
He says demand has risen for BT's virtual trading platforms, such as the ITS Anywhere for Web, a web-browser based turret that provides traders with voice connectivity away from the trading floor.With bird flu outbreaks cropping up from Europe to Asia, scientists say the new pattern of spreading infection makes a worldwide human pandemic more likely. So how well are U.S. financial firms prepared for a pandemic? 2,775 financial firms recently took part in a drill to try and answer that very question. The results were a mixed bag... Melanie Rodier has worked as a print and broadcast journalist for over 10 years, covering business and finance, general news, and film trade news. Prior to joining Wall Street & Technology in April 2007, Melanie lived in Paris, where she worked for the International Herald ... View Full Bio