Case study: how business continuity planning helped CDAM prepare for pandemic

George Chamberlain, chief operating officer at CDAM, explains how the company has responded to coronavirus and what challenges the pandemic may bring for the future

Sara Benwell POSTED ON 5/25/2020 4:46:38 PM

Sara Benwell: So George, was CDAM prepared for the impact of Covid-19?

George Chamberlain: Well, this is why you have a DR (disaster recovery) & Business Continuity plan, and why it’s so important to test it.

We hadn’t tested ‘global pandemic lockdown’ as a scenario, but ‘office inaccessibility’ is a familiar one which allowed the team to move to remote working quite smoothly.

"We are a small business, so well used to communicating and executing remotely"

Before the lockdown was introduced we’d been working alternate days with a red/blue team approach. This seemed prudent but was also anticipatory, giving the team a head start in relocating from the office.

I should add that we are a small business, so well used to communicating and executing remotely. Moreover, our investment strategy (l/s equites) is well suited for such a transition.

Sara: What changes did you have to make?

George: I think any operational changes came in relation to the fact the rest of the word was also remote working, and often juggling home schooling.

Given the immediacy of the lockdown, there were inevitably bottlenecks, particularly with counterparties.

"Proactive and diligent communication was key"

Size is often promoted as a strength, but perhaps less so when that huge headcount must immediately be able to work from home and those diehard manual processes finally automated.

Proactive and diligent communication was key. Process related risk was heightened given the relaxation of some controls.

That said, I think the industry moved quickly and has done a fantastic job. We are exceptionally fortunate our profession is largely electronic. 

Sara: What are some of the challenges still to come for ops teams?

George: This is interesting. I’m not sure anyone had anticipated such a long period of remote working and the profound implications of social distancing.

In the short term, teams are performing pretty well, with aptitude and resilience.  In the longer term though, the waters are deeper.

This new world throws up a host of challenges from new home-working cyber-risks to the management challenges of remotely maintaining team cohesion, motivation and metal wellbeing.

"It is imperative to create an office environment which is safe and inviting"

I’m inevitably thinking about and looking forward to the team being back in the office together. It’s not just the synergies and efficiencies, but also the intimacy and humour.

Before that can happen though, given our duty of care, it is imperative to create an office environment which is safe and inviting. The timing of any return will be informed by team members.

Sara: Finally what thoughts do you have on the longer term implications of Covid-19?

George: Well no one really knows. Although that doesn’t stop people, myself included, endlessly and indulgently speculating, especially when it comes to the big picture and “the death” of things; business travel; commercial office space; the business handshake.

I’m a great believer in human nature, and that it changes very slowly, if at all. Past behaviour is generally indicative of future behaviour.

There have been pandemics before, the H3N2 flu pandemics of 1957 and 1968 are good comparisons, but never before has a pandemic frightened governments into voluntarily shutting down their economies. That is what is unprecedented.

"One thing all the experts agree on, is that there are more viral pandemics to come"

So perhaps things really will never be the same. I don’t know the social impact. Perhaps we will have mandatory vaccine passports with the government, finally legally, able to track and trace our every movement and social interaction.

The economic impact though is perhaps clearer. The UK government has predicted the deepest recession for three centuries. So more borrowing, more debt, more taxes, high unemployment, less social mobility and increased generational dislocation.

There may be some benefits though, especially for the environment. Hopefully we’ll learn some lessons, because one thing all the experts agree on, is that there are more viral pandemics to come.


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