Even with an incredibly strong business continuity program and a cohesive team, BNP Paribas' Head of Business Continuity Management Bob Fucito is always looking for ways to reduce risk and strengthen skill sets. For Fucito, that means looking outside BNP as well as within.
"Since 2001, the crisis management committee has gone through many, many tabletop exercises, and in the scenarios where we simulated death and destruction - where we had terrorist attacks and what not - we always found out the resources we had were short," Fucito says.
The challenge led to the formation of BNP's CoVERT (Corporate Volunteer Emergency Response Team). In November of 2006, BNP Paribas announced it had teamed up with the New York City Office of Emergency Management to train a team of 30 to 40 BNP volunteers in disaster preparedness and basic response skills. The program, called CoVERT, is the first of its kind in the New York City.
More than Money
Under the program, BNP Paribas employee volunteers in New York will undergo an 11-week training program where they will be trained and certified in fire safety and suppression, light search and rescue, medical assistance, terrorism awareness, and other disaster preparations so that in the event of an emergency, CoVERT will be able to assist other employees as well as members of the community. CoVERT will work in conjunction with the NYPD, FDNY, EMS, NYCOEM, American Red Cross, and the local Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), a group of trained community volunteers, sponsored by BNP Paribas and capable of assisting CoVERT.
The project will be managed by Fucito, and he's very excited about what CoVERT members will bring to BNP as well as what they will be able to give to the community."Everything that the team is going to learn will add a tremendous amount of value to the crisis management team. In fact, the NYCOEM also provides education in a key module specifically for urban environments, such as dealing with skyscrapers and subways," he says. "These people could assist with the assessment and get to the problem area as kind of a bank first responder. Until the actual experts get here, they will be able to take control of the situation."
"But it's not just beneficial to BNP," Fucito says. "Everybody wins on this one. There's a tremendous benefit to the company, the employees, and the community. Personally, employees will be learning a skill set that they didn't have before. And they'll be trained by and work with professionals to do things they wouldn't normally have the opportunity to do. They can apply that new knowledge and skill set to their home life - maybe to take care of a neighbor or family member. Team members are going to be able to add value in their communities."
Another community will directly benefit from BNP's participation. "As part of the program, we will be sponsoring a residential CERT (Community Emergency Response) team." The sponsorship includes a $15,000 donation to the local CERT, but the relationship is about more than money, Fucito says.
"We will have the opportunity to communicate with and work with that team as well. We can leverage those people and they can leverage the company. It's a great partnership." The $15,000, he adds, is "not a huge expense for a corporation, but it is for a community." In fact, under the program BNP paid another $15,000 to participate. That money, which is tax deductible, "will be used for the fire department, police, and EMTs who do the training sessions, and for the materials and kits team members will get once they graduate."
With such "minimal expense" to corporations, Fucito says he doesn't understand why more businesses didn't choose to take part. BNP was the lone respondent to a city-wide search for corporate participants. "It's crazy not to move forward with this," Fucito says. "The initial benefit is to augment the capability of our crisis management committee, and everything after that is a benefit for everybody else. It's a great opportunity. We will be the pilot for the program, and if we do it right, hopefully we will be the model for all corporations that want to get involved."
BNP had no problem getting its people involved. "We've gotten a lot of great feedback from our people," Fucito says. "People are just so thrilled that the company is going through this effort to secure the safety and security of the staff."
Fucito says there's been "a tremendous response" to program so far. "We were looking for forty to fifty volunteers, and we got nearly a hundred." To winnow that number down, Fucito and his team are making sure they choose volunteers whose "managers will let them take the time to go do this. We also have to make sure there is no critical function that these people will perform on behalf of the business. If they are operating in a very critical business, we want them to focus on the business and we will look for other volunteers to provide assistance."
"We also want to make sure that if a situation occurs, the people we choose will not run home," Fucito says. "We understand that people have to take care of their families and elderly and children and pets. But we want to make sure that the people who sign up for this program understand that it is business first because we are talking about the safety and security of our staff here. And some of the training will help team members prepare their homes and families so that they can better participate here. If they are better prepared at home when a situation happens, there's less urgency, less worry at the time of disaster. And while they are stuck in the city, they can focus on the things they need to focus on here because they've already taken care of things at home."
CoVERT kicked off in mid-December 2006, and Fucito plans for training to be complete by March 2007. In addition to the scheduled training, Fucito and his team are taking "a special class that will train us to be trainers. As we experience turnover in the company, we can train new members and we will become self-sufficient to a point." They'll still need the FDNY's help for "the classes where we actually get to put out fires."
Fucito sees yet another benefit to CoVERT. "Team building. When we talked to the OEM, they focused a lot on the team building aspect. They impressed upon us that when you bring these people together they are going to form a team, and that's another tremendous benefit here."
Team building is important to Fucito, who says it is critical for all continuity teams. And the most successful BNP team-building exercise to date has Fucito's name all over it.
"Right after the hurricanes - Rita and Katrina - all the corporations sent lots of money down to the Gulf region to the charities there. We did an employee matching program where the bank matched dollar for dollar every employee donation, and we sent over $220,000 to the charities in New Orleans."
"But then our CEO got calls from employees who wanted to do more than just write the check," Fucito says. He and Robert Coghlan the head of corporate governance, were charged with finding a habitat for humanity-type project in which bank employees could take part. A New York congressman put them in touch with a counterpart in Louisiana who "put us in touch with various groups who needed assistance."
Eventually, they chose to work with Holy Cross School, and a trip was arranged to assess the damage and form an action plan. "But when we got there and met with the school's headmaster, he told us that the night before the school board decided to relocate rather than rebuild. So our whole reason for being down there was kind of shot."
But their work was far from over. "Walking out of the school and into the parking lot, we noticed that there was a fire truck, a tent, and a trailer in the parking lot of the school. We went over to see what was going on. We found out that the fire department was actually living and working out of the trailer so we spoke to the senior person, Captain Clark, who was on duty at the time. He told us about what happened to the fire department in New Orleans. They lost 22 out of 33 firehouses and 85 percent of their 650 firefighters lost their homes."
"We thought this would be a great opportunity to focus on the infrastructure of New Orleans, so we met with the chiefs and started the ball rolling. They picked four firehouses in very strategic areas that needed to be back on line. And we went back to New York and sent out a call to our employees asking for volunteers."
Two teams of 25 volunteers were selected, and the bank picked up the tab for their time away, travel expenses, and food. "We went in February with the first team and rebuilt two firehouses. We worked from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day. We worked long and hard. And it was the most amazing team-building experience I ever saw. I've gone to many, many off-site team-building exercises for the company, and nothing compared to what happened here. We had 25 people who didn't even know each other. They came from all parts of our company New York, San Francisco, across the country and even from Canada. And by the end of the first day, we became extremely close."
That first team got two firehouses back up and running in a week. The second team finished two more that following week. "We did everything we needed to do to put those firehouses back together," Fucito says. "We bought 650 new uniforms. We bought beds. We rebuilt kitchens, and bought new stoves and washers and dryers. The firefighters were living in trailers and tents and on cruise ships, and their families were living in other states. These guys were the heroes of Katrina. We went down there with just people and money, and in 14 days we were able to really make a difference. The appreciation on the part of the firemen was just incredible. You had grown men crying in your arms."
With the four firehouses complete, the BNP volunteers could have considered their work done. "But then the school we originally went to decided it would take them several years to find a location and build. So they set up mobile units and trailers as a temporary school for the kids. So we partnered with Dell and went in there and built them a state-of-the-art computer lab with new PCs, and flat panel screens, and printers, and fax machines. We also sent two IT guys down, and over the weekend they built the entire computer lab.
"And we still weren't done," Fucito says. "We had partnered with Ricoh to donate a copy machine, blackboards, and some supplies to another school. And all 300 students in kindergarten through eighth grade wrote thanking us. When we got those letters, we decided to go back and see what else we could do for them. In April, we sent a team of 12 and rebuilt seven classrooms. That was another amazing effort and the team-building result was exactly the same. Today those people are still the closest people. I have never seen that whole team building thing really roll over and continue like that. And the personal satisfaction and reward was incredible."
From the Top
Fucito praises top management for "allowing us to go to New Orleans. The bank really stepped it up. We had the right people at the right time in the right positions. And these people really cared. The CEO of North America, Everett Schenk, led the funding from Paris, gave us the money, and told us to go make a difference. And we did."
That kind of support is not unusual, Fucito says. "I've heard my peers talk about trying to reach top management and get their support. Here, I have it. Anytime I need something, anytime I ask for something, it's there."
Fucito says he thinks the 9/11 terrorist attacks made a huge impact on C-level executives, who are staunch supporters of his program.
"You could see the Trade Center from our CEOs office. And because we are in such a high-profile building, the police thought we would be a target and had us evacuate," he says. "At the time we did not have a crisis management program or plan. Everything that happened was made up as we went along. We did have a strong DR platform and a [hot] site in NJ. We also have two locations in the city. So we all went over to the East Side location to close the day's business. Our technology was not affected and we were able to switch our telecomm to our back-up site. From a business perspective, we were able to take care of everything we needed to do."
But "from that point going forward management decided we needed to strengthen our crisis management and business continuity capabilities. The thought was that we would benefit from putting together a single team for DR, BC, and crisis management." Fucito was tapped to run the program. As head of management services for IT, he had a strong 20-year disaster recovery background and the management skills it would take to run the program.
Over the last five years, the business continuity management team "has developed significantly," Fucito says. The team is comprised of five full-time employees supporting four main functions: crisis management, business continuity and IT disaster recovery as well as sponsorship for critical infrastructure, which includes the bank's electrical, cooling, and fire suppression/detection systems. "Additionally, we have the assistance of 135 BCP coordinators who are embedded into every department across the territory to manage their individual plans and liaise with the BCM team. Our scope includes nearly 2500 employees in 16 locations in the U.S. and Canada."
"The team is active all the time," Fucito says. "Call tree tests, mock disasters, IT and business recovery exercises along with crisis management tabletop exercises, shelter in place exercises, and fire and evacuation drills are all part of the program. In addition, we hold annual awareness programs to educate employees and use certification surveys to validate what we've implemented."
In 2005, "we responded to the transit strike in December, and we have also been planning for the next possible pandemic or terrorist attack. We offer employees certification and/or training in weapons of mass destruction detection, bomb sweeping techniques, and CPR.
Fucito's program covers the U.S. and Canada. "And we work very closely with counterparts in London and Paris. Once a year, we get together for a global meeting. Fortunately or unfortunately, we've had a lot of experience here in the U.S. to share. And with the tremendous regulatory pressures we see here in the states, we have a very advanced program. We share a lot of what we've done in the U.S. with the rest of the world."
Fucito sees regulatory requirements as friend rather than foe. "One of the reasons I think we're successful with our program is because we are following the regulatory requirements just as the larger firms are. And as I am sharing experiences with my counterparts in various large companies like Deutsche, CitiGroup, JP Morgan Chase, and Morgan Stanley, I see that for a large company it's hard to move quickly. Even though we are large in the world, we are small in the U.S. Our size, scope, and support allows us to move quicker than the larger companies and we have freedom to be creative and do things like CoVERT."
Fucito also enjoys the support of a strong corporate governance program that "has oversight for all risk functions of the bank. While all the business heads are responsible for revenue, we also want to hold folks accountable for the risks as well." To measure BCP compliance, "we created a scorecard that focuses on four areas: the plan itself, the BIA, testing participation, and the annual awareness certification." Fucito's team created a Web-based survey that every employee must complete to demonstrate an understanding of BCP basics. "That was a very effective awareness tool for us and more than 2400 people completed the survey."
Department heads are evaluated by the corporate governance team and must defend their BCP scorecards to the top managers up to and including the CEO and COO. "It is a very good motivational tool for us," Fucito says.
Another recent change Fucito enjoys is his new recovery facility. "One of the huge advantages that we have now is this facility. We used to outsource our recovery, and after both good and bad experiences with [hot site] providers, we took control of our own destiny and brought everything inside. We separated people and technology and built a huge, hardened facility that is highly resilient and redundant with emergency generators and cooling towers." BNP also built its own 300-seat business recovery center at the same location.
"We conduct mass mock disasters where we call on our emergency bus contract, and we get the team on the bus and take them to the center to operate from there for the entire day."
These days, pandemic planning is on Fucito's mind. "Pandemic planning is significantly different than your standard business continuity plan," he says. "We had to develop a template that stepped through the different levels of staff impact - from 10 to 25 to 50 to 75 percent. Then department heads had to determine the impacts to the business. Can you run with a 75 percent staff loss? Can you shut down? Are you regulated? Do you have the right controls and policies in place to work from home? It's a whole different spectrum when you are talking about pandemic planning."