Originally chartered to serve the United State Air Force Academy, Air Academy Federal Credit Union ($429.7M, Colorado Springs, CO) now serves members ranging from employees, students, and families from 10 local school districts, active and retired military, and more than 160 area businesses. AAFCU serves more than 40,000 members with branches spread from Colorado Springs, CO, to the south Denver suburbs. The 2012 Colorado wildfires caused more than 34,000 people to leave their homes, and by the end of the summer, the forest fires had destroyed hundreds of residences and burned thousands of acres. The fires forced Cory Shultz, COO and vice president of retail delivery at AAFCU, to evacuate his home for three days. Although Air Academy’s branches are located in urban areas, Shultz points out disaster planning must consider not only destruction but also power loss, flooding, and displacement that leave members without their normal means of accessing their financial accounts.
Alicia, I think it’s a good idea to hire an outside consultant that specializes in business continuity and disaster recovery. A good consultant forces you to think differently than you otherwise would and also forces you to go through processes during the year that hone your skills. These exercises eventually make your reaction to a business interruption second nature. We recently had a power problem on account of an electrical substation accident. But we responded well and moved to backup power speedily because we had adequately trained for it.
Expert outsiders also force you to have action plans for disruptions you might not otherwise consider. A flu pandemic, for example, would not cause infrastructure damage but might very well incapacitate a good portion of the staff or key persons of the executive team. A consultant will also have you go through exercises that will better prepare you for when the real thing comes along.
I think the best approach is talking with your peers to discover who they have used, who they liked, and how the process went for them. At AAFCU, we put the CIO in charge and had him write the request for proposal [ARP]. If you are starting from scratch, plan on three to six months for asking around, writing the RFP, getting a team in place, and conducting interviews.
Generally, the cost of hiring outsiders is not prohibitive, and the contractor not only helps put together the plan — sometimes called “the book” — but also stays on for a year or so with training, adjustments, updates, and so on. If cost is a factor, think about working with peers in your region. I’ve heard of smaller credit unions working with one another, so perhaps one contractor can work with more than one credit union. Certainly credit unions can share ideas and best practices that can ease your way into and through disaster recovery planning. And using a larger credit union to help serve as part of the backup team might be a money-saver. Even before you get started, a larger credit union might serve as a kind of mentor, allowing you to look at its plan, examine its backup systems, and talk you through its own experiences.
A good consultant forces you to think differently than you otherwise would and also forces you to go through processes during the year tha hone your skills.
Be sure to involve your middle management. Those team members might have to be making senior management-type decisions in the event of an emergency. “Table top” discussions and scenarios will introduce them to the challenges of disaster recovery and the actions and decisions the situation will require of them.
Fortunately, the more a credit union advances into electronic delivery — via ATMs, mobile banking and the like — the less reliant members are on walking into a branch. In a calamity, members will be better prepared to deal with the credit union remotely.
Alicia, to get this job done, you have to make it a priority in your credit union. Put it into your strategic plan. Task a senior executive as being the person in charge and establish a time table for results. Whomever you task should be the executive in charge of the follow-though as well. They’ll need to make sure the credit union keeps the plan up-to-date and accomplishes the necessary training and tests. Good luck!
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