Magazine article American Banker

Bankers' Next Storm Challenge: Continuity

Magazine article American Banker

Bankers' Next Storm Challenge: Continuity

Article excerpt

Byline: Andy Peters, Rachel Witkowski

What's next?

As Hurricane Sandy starts to make its way inland, bankers from Virginia to Maine have shifted their efforts away from emergency preparedness to focus on post-storm crisis management.

The decision to open or close branches took place over the weekend, along with choices on staffing data centers and contacting employees. A number of banks also used social media to inform customers how to set up and use online banking should their branches remain shuttered for several days.

Bankers are looking ahead at the coming week with a realization that many of the customers, and some of their branches, could be knocked out of commission for the foreseeable future.

The storm's timing was particularly taxing for banks that process clients' payroll payments, making that a top priority for some management teams.

"The main problem is that this is the end of the month and there's a lot of payroll going on," says Gilles Gade, the chief executive of Cross River Bank in Teaneck, N.J. "We've asked customers to process their payrolls ASAP, even though the funds are not going to hit until Wednesday. But these [automatic] withdrawals will hit on the first day of the month, we don't want them to hit empty-handed and incur a lot of fees."

Cross River has been working on a system that will allow for remote deposit by cell phone, but it will not be available until February, Gade says. Still, "all the businesses that have accounts with us have remote deposit machines."

Sandy Spring Bancorp (SASR) in Olney, Md., set up a software portal to communicate with its business clients about transferring files such as payroll, says John Sadowski, the company's chief information officer. "If those clients don't have power, we have to figure out how they can get information to us, so that portal is our busiest one. …

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