More in this series

This is the first in a series of blogs about responding to the Coronavirus pandemic. More blogs will be on the way soon...

The coronavirus pandemic is a crisis with massive human and economic impact.

Not only are we all experiencing huge uncertainty in our working lives, it is augmented by many personal worries and challenges too. And all this is happening to everyone, at the same time.

To top this off, the majority of us in financial services are working very differently, with very little notice. Never before have contemporary businesses come up against such disruption with the potential to uproot a healthy culture.

Businesses that rise to the challenge will consider culture to be one of their key business operations and will protect it as much as possible. Here’s our top three tips for making this happen:

1. Support your employees

Your people are your most important asset, so keeping your employees on side, feeling as prepared as possible and valued is essential during these turbulent times. Ask yourself whether you’re truly supporting your employees:

  • Do your staff have the right tools and a safe working environment to be productive and effective in their roles – whether on site or working remotely?
  • What steps are you taking to boost morale and keep standards of conduct high?
  • Do you have ways to support your employees’ physical and mental health?
  • Do they know what to do to protect their own personal well-being and that of those around them?
  • Have you determined what level and kind of contact is just right and how it varies from individual to individual?
  • Is company-wide communication consistent and valuable?
  • Have you sent reminders about key policies and procedures e.g. sickness, absence, healthcare.

Employees that feel that they’re a valuable cog in an essential and ethical business are much more likely to be productive and motivated in challenging circumstances. Engaged employees can help you maintain a positive brand image in a crisis situation. All businesses need employee loyalty now more than ever.

A clear communication strategy is a key element in allowing you to respond appropriately and confidently, considering the specific needs of the different audiences within your organisation.

Your HR teams will be busier than ever. Work with them to put in place additional measures for ensuring the health and happiness of your workforce.

2. Ensure your SMFs are taking reasonable steps  

It’s in times of change and disruption where your SM&CR arrangements are really tested. Your SMFs should be taking ‘reasonable steps’ to mitigate coronavirus-related risks to your business and to ensure continued good outcomes for customers, but what are these steps?

At the moment, it’s all about being proactive. All firms, including core ones, should have a contingency plan in place to ensure key functions can still be managed if a senior manager is off sick. Identify the individuals with the right level of skill and competence, and create an appropriate handover document.

Senior management should also have a firm handle on cultural change and how it’s impacting customers. Nipping issues in the bud early will save you from even more problems when we eventually re-emerge from the fog.

3. Really think about your customers

Your customers are the backbone of your commercial success. They’ll remember how you treated them during this challenging time, so maintaining good outcomes for them is key to your long-term sustainability. You should be considering:

  • Are you communicating effectively with your customers and giving the right kind, and level, of support?
  • Are your customer service teams trained to deal with the different kinds of circumstances arising as a result of this crisis?
  • When making business decisions at board level are you considering the impact on customers?
  • Are your operations resilient enough to ensure essential services remain accessible to your customers?
  • Are you prepared to manage a likely increase in the volume of customer contact and possible complaints?

It’s probable you’ll need to scale up resource in customer contact and communication areas, with additional relevant training to make sure they are having the right impact. It would also be sensible to commit resources to focus on operational resilience – focusing on testing, breaking and strengthening.

While we’re yet to see the full impact of coronavirus, you also need to bear in mind that there’s likely to be an increase in customer vulnerability as a result. We’d highly recommend proactively reviewing your approach to managing customers, and the solutions offered to them, to make sure you continue to treat them fairly.

At the core of everything is effective communication and as much forward planning as possible. Many of you will feel you’re on the back foot and having to patch up your operations rather than being able to roll out a properly rehearsed plan. That’s where we can help you. We’ll test your approaches and give you recommendations on how to fix things fast, while at the same time strengthening your operations for the future.

Businesses that rise to the challenge will consider culture to be one of their key business operations and will protect it as much as possible

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