U.S. banking company BBVA Compass felt the full force of Hurricane Harvey’s lashing, with employees’ personal lives impacted, administrative buildings closed, branches closed and some flooded and ATMs knocked offline. BBVA has 649 branches spread across the country, with nearly 25% located in South Texas and its holding company headquarters located in Houston. As one of the top 25 largest U.S. commercial banks (based on deposit market share), it was critical that operations continued with minimal interruption to serve all communities and clients.
Business disruptions, no matter their size, can have long-lasting and negative effects on both employees and clients if they are not properly planned for, which is why business continuity planning is critical for companies of all sizes. Ensuring employee safety and business survivorship is key in these situations according to Rolando Gutierrez, BBVA Compass Director of Business Continuity.
“Business continuity planning helps ensure that there is a process in place whenever there is loss or disaster,” he said. “And that the functions that are critical and essential to doing business have been identified and properly planned for so that employees are kept safe, customers are served and the business is running as close to normal as possible, while these events are occurring.”
While different methodologies exist for Business Continuity planning, at BBVA Compass, the Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery teams works with a model handed down from the BBVA Group that dictates that guidance happens from the top down, while execution happens from the bottom up. In reality, this means that each unit in the bank – facilities, operations, security, retail, engineering, talent & culture and more – creates a plan is implemented in the case of loss or disaster. The Business Continuity team oversees this planning, and manages the program with the Country Level Continuity team.
When disasters hit, like the historically tragic Hurricane Harvey, the Business Continuity team has already been monitoring the situation for a number of days in tandem with its partner StormGeo, and meeting with the Country Level Continuity Team regularly, to ensure coordination and plan implementation.
“For weather-related events, we work with StormGeo, which developed a product for us that assesses weather threats according to certain specified levels,” Gutierrez said. “When a weather report reaches a certain threat level, that’s when we pull together the Country Level Continuity Team and start getting our actions plans underway.”
BBVA Compass Director of Operational Services and Control Julian Robles says that weather related events are the most difficult from a planning standpoint because they tend to not be localized, but involve multiple locations and buildings, which stretches resources. For example, in the case of Hurricane Harvey, keeping ATMs supplied with cash when branches and providers like Brinks are closed – or still ramping up after reopening – was a challenge that involved logistics planning starting weeks in advance and used resources from across Texas.
Beyond that, weather events more so than others tend to have greater people impact – in the case of Harvey, many of those tasked with ensuring business continuity were also dealing with the fall out of the storm personally.
“We have to ensure as little disruption to the business as possible, as our footprint stretches over multiple states – that’s our task in Business Continuity,” Robles said. “But, at the same time, many of us who live in Houston were finding ourselves part of the very situation we were working to manage, which made it challenging on a different level.”
Ultimately though, says Gutierrez, it’s this kind of commitment to the job, and the work of many teams, that ensure success.
He said, “We have a group of people dedicated to ensuring that our people and our customers are minimally impacted by the disasters or losses that are happening around them. This team steadies the ship and ensures that it’s ready for whatever obstacles it may face.”
This article, written by Christina Anderson, was originally published on BBVA Compass.