The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the thought leader as an individual, and are not attributed to CeFPro or any particular organization.
By Terri Duhon, Chair of the Board, Morgan Stanley Investment Management Ltd, Board Member Morgan Stanley International and Rathbone Brothers where she also chairs the Risk Committees
What are some of the challenges that have arisen with operating a business with remote staff?
When the pandemic first hit, we all initially made a simple assumption that inherent risk was higher with everyone working remotely. Then we needed to explore the various ways that could end up being the case and whether the inherent risk was sufficiently higher that we needed to manage it.
There were also immediate challenges like making sure that regulatory requirements were still being met e.g. client conversations and market activity still needed to happen on recorded lines. Another immediate challenge was ensuring that everyone had enough hardware and appropriate access to systems to work from home in a secure way. This was a huge logistical process that was fraught with operational risk in order to reduce not just operational risk but cyber and fraud risk.
Ultimately we needed to review most controls and processes and decide whether they were fit for purpose while working remotely or if they needed amendment. As they were almost all designed for in office working, it made sense that they wouldn’t all be appropriate. For example working with MNPI while you’re sharing a kitchen table with someone who doesn’t work in your firm or shouldn’t have access to that MNPI needed to be addressed.
There were also a few teams who were used to working across multiple locations whose controls and processes had evolved to more naturally work remotely for all the entire team once their hardware and access were appropriate.
At the same time, we worried about well-being. It was clear from the start that this pandemic would have an impact on well-being for all of us. Of course that also leads to inherently higher operational risk although honestly this was less of a concern than simply looking after our people. There were numerous HR initiatives to try to help people both manage better remotely as well as look after themselves.
Finally – we all know that culture drives conduct which drives risk. But without an office environment and proximity to other more senior people – culture carriers for example, how would the culture of an organization work with everyone working from home? Ultimately, we considered shared values to be something that could transcend the office space and was what we focused on. In other words, culture is defined by shared valued and it was important to demonstrate those values even in the “zoom” work environment.