Do I still need special teams for my credit union business continuity plan?

by. Robin Remines

As a BCP consultant, I see a lot of credit union business continuity plans. Our credit unions run from single branch organizations to nationwide institutions and their plans are just as diverse. One thing is clear – NCUA is looking for credit union’s of all sizes to demonstrate ownership – with ownership being defined as your entire organization is participating in the efforts to sustain continued operations during a crisis or service disruption. With distributed ownership of the DR/BCP efforts, some of my clients are asking if they still need special teams for their plans. My answer – that depends. And while that may seem like a weak answer, let me explain.

First let’s talk about corporate-wide ownership – A successful BCP program involves every single person in your credit union – every executive, every back office personnel , every teller. Each department should have it’s own recovery plan and be empowered to activate it should the time come. Department level tests and exercises should be frequent enough to create muscle memory so that paper plans and even software portals are used for reference vs. action. Because of the departmental ownership and continual updating of the plan – the majority of personnel should not have to “break rank” during an event. This is critically important since cognitive abilities can be reduced up to 60% during a crisis. Throwing your staff members into special groups can be confusing and open the door for mistakes. If you report to Leader A today and an event happens – you should still report to Leader A. Muscle Memory. Don’t break rank. Stick to the normal hierarchy.

But what about those special teams we had before – the administrative team, the communications or back office team? If it covers a functional area that has the ability to recover on its own with proper planning and existing leadership, I say leave it alone. I can think of two “special teams” however that work quite well. Use these to strengthen your plan, not confuse it.

Crisis Management Team (CMT) – I had a hard time typing that one because to me – the CMT is the same as the leadership team (or it should be). The reality is however that not all credit union leadership teams include the same staffing that a crisis might require. For instance, there are many credit union IT leaders that report to the CFO or COO. In a crisis, that person would normally join the rest of the executive staff at the table to strategize and execute the DR/BCP.  A typical CMT consists of the C-level personnel, Human Resources, Marketing/Communications and Facilities.

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