How Citi Connects for Success

August 21, 2014

I joined Citi in 2004, after two decades in public service at the New York City Police Department and Office of Emergency Management (OEM). During my career with the city, I worked to engage the private sector in public sector efforts; now I get to use my prior experience and relationships to ensure Citi stays fully integrated into the public resources available for disaster management. Whether you’re in the public sector or the private sector, strong partnerships are essential to mitigating and recovering from any disaster. Here are a few tips I’ve learned during my career:

Secure emergency access. During my time as commissioner of NYC OEM, we introduced the Corporate Emergency Access System (CEAS) as part of the city’s economic development plan. CEAS authorized essential employees to access restricted areas following an emergency. When barricades are up, CEAS-credentialed employees can get inside and work to shut down or sustain core business functions until normal entry is restored. Employees can rescue assets from a vault, locate vital records, or retrieve critical equipment. A dozen local governments in six states now offer the CEAS program. Check with your local police department or emergency management agency to see if CEAS or a similar program is available in your area.

Build and maintain relationships. Whether it’s through attending industry conferences or setting up job-shadowing exchanges, make sure you’re using your time between crises to build and maintain relationships. You’ll be able to rely on a strong network when you need one. Our relationships with nonprofits helped us, among other tasks, to quickly redeploy more than 9,000 surplus meals, 42,000 bottles of water, and a truckload of ice to a New Jersey food bank after Hurricane Sandy.

Position your people. There’s no substitute for having some of your teammates at the center of public decision making. When NYC OEM opens its crisis command center, we  make sure a Citi colleague is in the rotation to represent the financial services industry. That way, one of our teammates is physically present as decisions are being made, getting firsthand information and reports. Leverage your teammates’ subject-matter expertise as well as relationships with experts in real estate, financial markets technology, and other fields.

Hire employees with public-sector experience. Several of my Citi colleagues joined us from NYC OEM and the NYPD. Before, during, and after any crisis, they’re able to leverage their relationships and their understanding of the city’s approach to help us ensure Citi’s response is effective and appropriate.

Practice, practice, practice. Rigorous tabletop testing and role-playing scenarios keep you ready so you’re on top of your game when a disaster strikes. In fact, we’d tested our backup trading capabilities the week before Hurricane Sandy hit. In addition to practicing frequently, make sure your drill team is comprehensive. Citi has recently helped plan exercises that bring together government, industry, and business leaders to test our resilience for emerging threats like cyberattacks. In late 2013, Citi helped coordinate a Pandemic Tabletop Exercise that brought together the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), industry organizations, and 77 financial services firms. Fostering a partnership between the public- and private-sector players, the drills tested organizational resilience for a pandemic outbreak, identifying special considerations and materials to protect the health and safety of employees. We’ll regroup this fall for a new drill that applies lessons learned and takes an even more challenging approach.

Ensure your plans evolve. Good crisis planning means monitoring the changing threat landscape. A massively destructive hurricane striking New York City once seemed unthinkable. Preparing for new and different threats is a challenge when budgets are tight, but it’s still critical. This fall, we’ll participate in a FEMA-led exercise to help companies in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic prepare for the next big physical disaster. Additionally, today’s emerging threats include cyber-risks, with adversaries like criminal syndicates, nation-states, terrorists, hacktivists, and rogue insiders. Proactive sharing of intelligence with government agencies is key. Plan, prepare, and anticipate what might be ahead.

[Editor's Note: This case study was featured in Changing the Game: How Business Innovations Reduce the Impact of Disasters.]