Getting BCP Right During COVID-19: Maintaining Business as Usual

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COVID-19 poses many challenges for businesses and as the focus shifts from Asia to the escalation across Europe and North America, clients naturally seek reassurance from their providers that they are able to maintain service levels throughout this time of uncertainty in addition to doing the right things to protect the health and wellbeing of their people.

We wanted to share some of the common questions we are receiving from our global client base, to proactively and transparently share our ‘lessons learned’ and ‘actions taken’ to date.

With offices in over 40 locations worldwide, Apex Group (“Apex” or the “Group”) has been successfully managing the impact of COVID-19 through well-documented and extensively tested business continuity plans (“BCP”).  In response to the initial outbreak of COVID-19 across APAC, we first implemented BCP across affected Asian offices, which required a highly controlled and coordinated response plan across our Hong Kong and China offices in particular. Our employees across Asia remained calm and pragmatic throughout and we are extremely proud of how they have handled the situation. Having dealt with BCP in relation to COVID-19 for over four months, we gained the advantage of some early learnings around how to overcome health and safety, procedural operations and infrastructure challenges. With this experience in place and the resulting  success stories across our Asia operations , the Group was able to proactively modify and replicate BCP plans in other locations with confidence that they have already demonstrated they work, in turn enabling us  to maintain consistency in client service levels across our global network.

Now that the COVID-19 is reaching its peak across Europe and North America, we are seeing some of the same questions arising from our clients in these regions and wanted to share our insights and robust procedures to support the industry as a whole in navigating through these challenging times.

Service and People Clarifications.

What are the Group’s arrangements to respond to COVID-19 with ‘home-working’ and or employee absenteeism?

  • The Group is monitoring developments hourly country by country. Frequent development monitoring is carried out by the Global Risk Committee, HR Department and Governance Department, in addition to a daily assessment and progress discussion between the Group Executive Committee.
  • We have daily structured update calls along with reporting mechanisms through the chain of command. A ‘call tree mechanism’ has been implemented to disseminate information quickly and take appropriate action as required.
  • We are monitoring advice from the World Health Organisation in addition to all local Health Agencies and Governments where our offices are located. Updates are issued regularly to employees along with the relevant guidance.
  • Clear procedures and alternate workload reallocation plans are in place to tackle employee absenteeism.
  • Alternate work arrangements enable our employees to work from home if required, or alternatively our ‘Spartan’ or ‘Centre of Excellence’ locations are able take on an additional support role for an interim period.
  • All alternate work arrangements have been defined and tested across the Group; tests have also addressed the importance of ensuring uninterrupted connectivity and data privacy requirements.
  • There are clear and documented procedures governing all deliverables across the Group and teams are cross-trained across client groups as well as across functions.

How advanced are Apex’s pandemic plans in terms of isolating business critical tasks and redistribution of resources in order to avoid service disruption?

  • Our business model, developed over the past seventeen years to deliver local service on a global scale, ensures that we have skilled employees in multiple geographic locations worldwide and are therefore in a position to maintain business as usual.
  • We are monitoring conditions daily to ensure that material service performance is not impacted. There are no concerns in this area, however should this change we would notify all of our clients in the first instance.

What contingencies do you have in place for payment runs and wire transfers across your banking platforms?

  • The Group has multiple offices with access to various bank platforms in addition to our own banking capabilities delivered through European Depositary Bank.
  • We have ensured that soft and hard tokens are distributed in a manner to allow payments including manual remittance transfer forms wherever possible without compromising 4 eyes principles / required controls.

Third Party Vendor Considerations.       

Have you considered potential disruption from your own suppliers?

  • Apex technology operations are Cloud-based to mitigate risk.
  • We have defined SLAs in place with all major IT vendors in the event of any disruption and are in regular contact with them throughout this challenging time.

Data Privacy and Technology Clarifications.

How will you maintain data privacy for your clients when employees are working from home?

  • Where teams and individuals are required to work from home, the relevant data privacy declarations have been obtained from each employee requiring them to operate from a secured environment.
  • The IT team conduct regular tests for the IT disaster recovery plan, including testing for instances where circumstances require remote connection to our core applications.
  • Laptops have been assigned to core function employees to ensure daily tasks can be conducted without any impact on clients.
  • Apex Group applies the highest standards of information security and operates strict controls for accessing information outside of the Group network to support enhanced security in a remote working environment.

Continuous Monitoring Clarifications.

How is Apex ensuring that there will be no impact on operations?            

  • As aforementioned, daily calls have been set up across the Group Executive Committee, Governance, Communications and HR. This Group monitors and discuss the evolutions of the situation daily. Regular discussion points include:
    • Challenges and Action planning
    • Local Government requirements and advice
    • Employee health and safety and developments in homeworking requirements

Apex will continue to work closely to ensure client service is not impacted; having successfully executed on this across multiple offices since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak in December 2019 in Asia, we are confident in our ability to support clients throughout this challenging time.

If you have any additional questions on BCP or require any guidance, please contact us.

 

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