Continuity in Central Banking: Beyond Compliance — A Social Responsibility

Johanna Gutierrez Clavijo

The Central Bank of Colombia (El Banco de la República) complies with the standard functions of most central banks; its main constitutional objective is to watch over the stability of currency purchasing power. As stated on its website: “the aim of the Banco de la República’s monetary policy is the achievement of coherent inflation rates with the constitutional mandate of guaranteeing price stability in coordination with a general macroeconomic policy that motivates product and employment growth”. It has administrative autonomy over national wealth and its technology. Some of its principal functions are to regulate currency, the international exchange, and credit; to issue legal currency; to administrate international reserves; to act as moneylender of last resort; to act as banker for credit establishments; and to serve as the fiscal agent of the government. The Central Bank of Colombia is an essential part of the operation of the Colombian financial system, which is the group of entities that exert influence on Colombia’s stock market activity, insurance, finance and credit.

To give continuity to these functions, which, among other things, helps to guarantee secure and efficient money circulation both domestically and internationally, the Central Bank of Colombia has been working for twelve years on developing and implementing a system of continuity management (SCM) that is efficient and effective. This system is of high quality and encompasses the critical processes of the bank including clear and open policy, an operation and technology contingency plan, a response and emergency plan as well as a separate crisis management plan, and integration with the financial and government sector.

SCM is known for having the unconditional support of the bank’s senior management, who feel that it is a matter of strategic importance. To continue our operations as the central bank goes beyond constitutional compliance, it is a social responsibility. We are charged with assuring our bank’s continuity in the face of any threat to its ability to operate, including defending such crucial functions as the stability of the payments system and the monitoring of the money supply. Toward this goal, significant human and financial resources have been approved to ensure technological and operations continuity; a total of ten people work exclusively for SCM. Financial resources to construct, supply, and maintain two technical and operations centers have been sanctioned. One of them will have the capacity to recover the entire technical operation in two hours and to continue operating indefinitely; the other will have active operation in one hour and operate for up to eight weeks. It has been an ongoing challenge to maintain the interest and participation of the banking community on these matters. This has been achieved through permanent sensitization and awareness to the point of being a planned and monitored activity with specific indicators of compliance, thus contributing to the rising maturity of SCM at the bank.

Three years ago, we decided to face the challenge of conducting live contingency tests at the Central Bank of Colombia. That is to say, we conducted tests during the business hours of the entire financial community. This matter was supported not only by senior management, but also at the supervisory level and by the financial community in general. Today we can say that the successful tests conducted during business hours included an evacuation simulation of central bank personnel, resulting in a two-hour suspension of the technological and operations services that we offer the financial and governmental sectors. Following the evacuation, operations began again at the exclusive alternate off-site location of the contingency teams.

A big challenge that is still unresolved has been to find the best way to communicate a crisis event to and among employees. Currently, we use cell phones, e-mail, and a custom crisis information portal that activates on our website (www.banrep.gov.co) in the event of a crisis. The site contains information on the development of the crisis and the actions that various groups of affected employees, users, and providers should take. In the same way, we are exploring the possibility of acquiring a massive notification tool. For now, we provide information to our employees via the social media site Twitter in order to maintain an alternative method of communication with them.

The Central Bank of Colombia is also involved with promoting continuity management in financial and governmental entities, with the goal of realizing internal management for the whole country. To help achieve this goal, we are vigilant to maintain compliance with the regulations of the Ministry of Finance of Colombia and its mission to preserve public confidence and the stability of the financial system. To this end, the Ministry controls and oversees the system, seeking security and clarity both in financial services provided and in operation fulfilled. Therefore, those who take part in this financial system are obliged to comply with continuity plans that allow us to continue operating critical processes and to guarantee that our critical providers also have and sanction the plans. On the other hand, via the Continuity Committee of the Commercial Bank Association (Asobancaria), we are working on critical aspects that allow us to comply with the SCM regulations, to share experiences in the development of SCM and to obtain integrated tools as plans of crisis management. These will strengthen the coordinated response to events that pose high impact risk to the financial system of the country.

It is evident that the Central Bank of Colombia is aiming for much more than the continuity of its own operation. That mission when pursued alone would make no sense if the rest of its counterparts and users were not also working to the same end. The bank is busy integrating its plans. This effort is not only an organizational challenge, but also a challenge to contribute—even under adverse conditions—to the ongoing development of our country.

 

Johanna studied at the University of the Andes where she specialized in systems and computer engineering and upper management. She has been certified CBCP since 2001 by the Disaster Recovery Institute and MBCI by BCI since 2008. Johanna has experience in design, development, implementation of risk, and continuity management systems. She has knowledge and experience in the areas of prevention, attention and response to emergencies as well as design and implementation of technology and contingency plans, organizational and inter-institutional crisis management. She has consulted regarding business continuity with Central Banking and public sector organizations in Colombia. Johanna is currently working for the Central Bank of Colombia, where she has been a computer security engineer, director of technology support and continuity and now serves as Director of the Risk and Process Management Department.

 

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