Banks in Canada know they have a responsibility to protect customer’s money on a day‑to‑day basis as well as through any sort of event or emergency, such as acts of nature, health crises, systems or power failures and criminal or terrorist activities. A bank’s business continuity plan ensures they can meet their responsibilities through any event or crisis.

Business Continuity Plans

All banks have extensive business continuity plans in place to deal with events that could affect banking operations. They constantly monitor emerging issues and review, test and update these plans to prepare for any foreseen or unforeseen events that could arise. In fact, the banks’ plans and the banking sector’s well-established protocols for cooperation and mutual support have and continue to be successful in coping with previous disruptions, including the the COVID-19 pandemic, Quebec ice storm, seasonal floods and the blackout of 2003 in parts of Eastern Canada.

In preparing for any event, the priorities for the banks are the health and safety of bank employees and customers and the continued delivery of essential banking services.

How banks prepare for emergencies

In each of the banks’ evergreen business continuity plans, they anticipate the possible event or emergency that might occur, and then outline how the bank would work within that situation to meet the objective of ensuring the health and safety of employees and customers while continuing to provide essential services. The challenge is to ensure that plans are robust enough to be implemented at any time, but flexible enough to adapt to a particular situation as it changes.

Generally, planning is done at three levels:

  • Bank Level — Each bank’s business continuity plan identifies critical functions needed to maintain banking services, such as cross-training employees and building redundancies into the system to ensure that banking services will continue to be available throughout every stage of a possible emergency. Other steps that could be taken include travel restrictions, limiting face‑to‑face meetings, and transitioning employees to work from home or alternate work sites if necessary.
  • Industry Level — Banks are very interconnected and are constantly processing transactions with each other. The banking sector works in cooperation to manage the broader issues around business continuity and also works with external organizations, such as health officials, government agencies, regulators and other industries to share information and best practices.
  • Supplier Level — Banks rely on external service providers and suppliers, so the industry ensures that suppliers are prepared to continue to provide these necessary services to banks in the event of an emergency.

The CBA’s role in business continuity preparations

The Canadian Bankers Association brings the banks together to share information and work with other external organizations to assess the impact of any type of event on the delivery of services to customers. Through the CBA, the banking sector also communicates with health and other government officials, regulators and other industries to ensure that plans are in place to deal with events if and when necessary.

For hundreds of years, Canada’s banks have helped their customers through many challenging times, working in partnership with governments at all levels, to maintain the high level of service that Canadians expect from their bank throughout any crisis.

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