COVID-19 Strategy: Update March 2nd

COVID-19 Strategy: Update March 2nd

COVID-19 Strategy: Update March 2nd

The different strategies global businesses are taking to mitigate the risks associated with Coronavirus have become a hot topic of discussion this week. Even on the island of Ireland at the one extreme there is Google Dublin who are running a WFH (“Working From Home”) dry run today for all 8,000 staff (https://www.rte.ie/news/coronavirus/2020/0302/1119791-google/). At the other, we’re aware of a team in a large multinational in Belfast who have threatened a walk out because they have been forced to work in an office alongside colleagues who have just returned from a ski trip in Northern Italy.

We thought it was a good opportunity to lay out how we are approaching some of these issues in Options. We manage critical infrastructure for global financial firms so in practical terms need to take a more conservative approach than many other businesses.

In January, as the potential risk profile of the virus, its reproductive rate and mortality rate became apparent we took a number of proactive steps. As of Monday, January 27th, we had taken the following action;

–  Cancelled our H1 global management checkpoint. Eighty of our senior staff from around the world were supposed to be in Belfast for the full week of February 3rd. It didn’t seem like a good idea to get the entire team in one room;

–  Cancelled customer conferences scheduled for the last week in January and February in London and New York;

–  Ran full BCP-WFH tests for our offices in Hong Kong and Singapore;

–  Initiated an infrastructure review to ensure that every Options team member could work from home if need be, so the business could function as normal for a protracted period of weeks or months if circumstances dictate;

–  Initiated a platform review to ensure that the infrastructure was in place to ensure every customer desktop user could work from home if need be, irrespective to their own policies or commercial issues;

–  Stopped all non-critical business travel;

–  Initiated a soft policy where anyone returning to the UK or US from a high risk area would work from home for two weeks before returning to the office;

–  Applied the WFH policy to travel for either business or pleasure.

We also took standard precautions, for example ordering hand sanitiser dispensers for the entrances to each office.

As of March 3rd we tightened these policies in light of the developing situation, and made the following changes;

– Extended the WFH policy so anyone who has travelled internationally by air must work from home for two weeks before returning to our UK or US offices;

– Stopped all non-essential business travel (vs critical);

– Stopped any cross office working within regions;

– We are running full BCP-WFH office quarantine simulation tests for our London, Belfast and New York offices this week;

– We plan to run a full global BCP-WFH office quarantine simulation next week.

To summarise, we’ve taken strong action to reduce the risk of a team member or office being infected or quarantined, while also testing our BCP strategy to ensure we can function as normal in a doomsday scenario where one or all of our offices are shut down for a period.

We have also implemented the below checklist as suggested by the CDC, though in many areas our approach is considerably more aggressive than the guidelines:

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/specific-groups/guidance-business-response.html

It is worth highlighting a number of areas where our firm is different from many other businesses. For one, our engineers regularly undertake out of hours work, overtime, weekend work and the like while working from home so our infrastructure for running the platform remotely is well tested. WFH has been a cornerstone of our BCP strategy since we started building the Private Financial Cloud in 2003.

Similarly, as we effectively deliver all client infrastructure over a Hybrid Cloud model, WFH can be supported for all our clients. During the Hong Kong riots last autumn we saw large scale local carrier outages while all our desktop users worked remotely, accessing their backup systems in Singapore. It was so seamless that many didn’t even notice.

We also recognise that there are many different business models out there and many firms don’t run critical financial sector infrastructure. We were able to take strong action and cancel management events and customer conferences because they aren’t “economic” events for us. At the other extreme, if the Premier League was to cancel the remaining fixtures there would be economic carnage costing hundreds of millions in lost revenue, potentially bankrupting many clubs.

Our mandate is simpler, ensure we’re prepared to keep client trading infrastructure running whatever happens.

Danny Moore, President & CEO

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