COVID-19 has tattered many businesses within months of its spread across the world. Apart from the disease inflicting its effects on humans, it is causing a huge threat to many organizations too. This article concentrates on some of the immediate steps regulated financial firms in the UAE should be taking to remain resistant and compliant. Following a business continuity plan always works in times of crisis.
Why is COVID-19 threat for businesses or organizations?
As mentioned above, COVID-19 is playing significant disruption not only to the human but the businesses run by them too where the degrees of impact is differing with each industry. Along with these issues, regulated firms in the Dubai International Financial Centre and Abu Dhabi Global Market have to take into consideration the potential regulatory impacts and the placement of effective business continuity plans.
Here is an excerpt from both the Dubai Financial Services Authority and Financial Services Regulatory Authority rules, where the firms are required to keep their business continuity plans updated and regularly test the effectiveness of the plan. “Adequate arrangements to ensure that it can continue to function and meet its obligations under [applicable legislation in the financial free zone] in the event of an unforeseen interruption.”
COVID-19 is about to test the business continuity plans and crisis management capabilities of regulated firms. Based on the present disastrous scenario, the regulators may be lenient. However, given that the firms and organizations had enough time to prepare for business continuity arrangements even then if they fail and result in customer detriment or loss then they have to face regulatory scrutiny.
A firm should assess the capability of its Business Continuity Plan (BCP) during situations like COVID-19. The firms should also assess whether their BCP plans fit the purposes laid by WHO and UAE government guidelines. Apart from maintaining a BCP, it is mandated to go through stress tests given the current worst-case scenarios that include sending or pausing key staff or business functions out of action for two or more weeks. Apart from this, we suggest the following BCP for COVID-19 scenario:
- Look into all the possible business interruption scenarios. That is, there are certain industries like trade and insurance, these organizations need to analyze if they can carry out the working model in the same procedure if all the member of their firm either work from home or work remotely in other countries.
- Keeping the communication within the team in tandem by considering alternate ways like video conferencing and calls, would help in avoiding staying in contact and spread of infections too.
- Share the COVID plan to the key personnel in your organization
- Designate a separate COVID team to take care of all the COVID plan related operations.
Here is the list of BCP issues that the firms should immediately address:
- Communications – Check if the firm’s BCP comprises of a comprehensive plan that allows key personnel to communicate effectively in the event of a disruption that includes a back-up plan too. That is if the key personnel can send an email or communicate to all members of the organization with the up to date information using the messaging tools.
- Decision – making – Is there a proper backup plan in scenarios where one or two key personnel are missing from action, and someone is replacing them and can make decisions based on the current scenarios. Are the personnel equipped on who will be taking the chain of command?
- Health guide – Firms should acquaint themselves with the updated UAE Government and public health advice. They also should keep the employees updated with the information on what precautions to take during this state such as avoiding travel to affected areas or being in contact with the infected individuals. They should also be equipped with the knowledge and given clear guidance about working from home or remote working, quarantine process, risks in traveling to the high-risk countries, and what kind of care to take if the employee encounters an infected person.
- Working remotely – Did the firm test before and or arranged the right tools and training to the employees concerning remote working. Are they any business crucial teams tested and set up, who can effectively work from remote locations?
- Bandwidth – Is the firm having enough bandwidth and server processing power that can handle if all the employees or at least key personnel are working remotely? If no, is there a back-up plan for this?
- Continued following of business rules – Are the rules clearly stated in the BCP regarding remote working, where the employees are given the respective permissions and ensured that they follow the company’s conduct rules.
- Each industry has a different set of BCP guidelines to follow. However, the above list is the basic checklist a firm should be prepared with to address contingencies like the current COVID-19 situation. The preparedness of the firm with proper back-up plans will let the organizational activities run smoothly without causing major damage. Spectrum Accounting is ensuring the safety and well-being of its employees and wishes its clients and business fraternity across geographies a safe and healthy times.