How to ensure ‘business as usual’ in the face of a crisis

Natural disasters and unexpected catastrophes are inevitable, but not every business is sufficiently prepared for when things don’t go according to plan. The resulting fallout a disaster could have on your business can be enormous, however, having a plan in place will help to reduce the impact so you can ride out the storm and survive any unexpected calamities.

In recent months, many Australian businesses – and entire industries – have been tested and severely impacted by unforeseen back-to-back disasters. First came the national bushfire disaster followed almost immediately by the global COVID-19 outbreak. Not only have these crises taken a significant financial toll on many businesses so far, they’ve also had emotional and psychological consequences for business owners, their staff and their families. With this in mind, it’s critical to address not only the business and financial ramifications, but also the psychosocial impact on the human resources your business heavily relies on.

We’ve put together 3 survival tips to help you ensure your mortgage broking business continues in business-as-usual mode during an adversity.

3 disaster survival tips for your Mortgage broker business

 

1) Make sure you have a business continuity plan.

Benjamin Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” A business continuity plan, or BCP, simply involves making a plan for how your business can prepare for and continue to operate after an incident or crisis. Typically, many businesses build a BCP into their overall business plan at the onset to avoid disruption, loss of revenue, or even worse, business closure in the event of unforeseen external circumstances.

There is currently no legislation that legally requires small businesses in the Australian financial services sector to have a BCP. According to global research, most SMEs are inadequately prepared for a business disruption-related risk event. In fact, an Asia-Pacific Economic Community survey found that 50% of SMEs did not have any business continuity plan in place and of those that did, only 25% had actually tested it. Considering that small businesses account for 35% of Australia’s GDP and 44% of private sector employment, this is alarming.

If you don’t have a plan in place to help your business continue operating in the event of an unexpected calamity, you are significantly reducing your ability to adequately manage the resulting repercussions and effectively navigate the obstacles to keep your business on track. Now, with Coronavirus being declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation, business disruption is expected to worsen considerably. However, it’s not yet too late to formulate a basic plan of action to lessen the impact it could have on your business. Your plan should include:

  • a risk management plan with a business impact analysis.
  • an incident response plan, with details of when to use the plan, the incident response team, communication during and after an incident and a contact list.
  • a recovery plan.

You’ll find more detailed information on drafting an effective business continuity plan on the Australian Government’s business website.

 

2) Communicate, communicate, communicate.

One of the most critical components of a successful business continuity and recovery plan is effective communication ­– before, during and after an incident or crisis. Businesses get side-tracked with resolving business-critical operations when disaster strikes and often overlook the most crucial tool for managing a crisis…the communication of information.

During and after a calamity there is always a human impact. Shock, confusion, panic and emotional distress are just some of the psychological and emotional side-effects your customers and staff will inevitably experience. Communicate with your customers and employees without delay, explaining what your plan is to ensure the business continues as normal. Make sure your staff understand what is expected of them, will they be required to work remotely, what their responsibilities will be and discuss their individual needs and concerns. Some staff may need to take time off work to care for family members, some may need mental health assistance or counselling, so make arrangements to accommodate each employee’s situation to ensure business critical functions continue uninterrupted.

Equally important are the needs of your customers. You may have customers who are at the start of their home finance journey and others who are close to settlement, but regardless of their stage in the financing journey, they will all have questions regarding how the crisis will affect their situation and loan outcome. If you have to relocate your office, or you and your staff plan to work remotely, let your customers know that you are still operational (especially if your existing office space has been vacated in an emergency). Don’t get caught up in the panic and leave your customers hanging for days with no updates. A communication blackout only increases distress and may result in them losing trust in you – which could impact future business.

 

3) Leverage technology for a successful recovery

Provided the power grid doesn’t fail and the internet doesn’t go offline, technology is your best friend in a disaster situation. Digital tools have been helping mortgage and finance brokers become more productive and improve business efficiency under normal circumstances. However, in a crisis, these tools are a business lifesaver as they facilitate remote work.

If you haven’t been backing up important data, do it immediately. Cloud back-up tools enable you and your staff to access essential documents whenever and wherever you are. Choosing a secure backup service is critical, since mortgage brokers are responsible for keeping highly sensitive customer and financial data safe. There’s nothing more devasting for a business than suffering a data breach during a natural disaster.

Document management tools designed for Mortgage brokers, for example ezidox™, keep all of your customers’ identity and financial documents secure within a single platform. Some of these technology solutions have built-in communication tools too, such as video conferencing, SMS and email messaging and store a history of all conversations with clients. These features are helpful for staying in contact with your customers during an emergency and ensure important information can be accessed when needed.

Bank statement retrieval tools, such as illion BankStatements, enable mortgage brokers to continue progressing loan applications during a disruption by simplifying the retrieval of official statements and transaction listings from their clients. If your customers have been quarantined, as is the case with Coronavirus, they won’t able to go into a bank branch to request their statements and this will almost certainly bring the finance deal to a standstill. Your clients can even complete their statement submission on their mobile phone from anywhere. This is a convenient feature especially if our clients have been forced to relocate remotely. By giving your customers digital options, you reduce their stress and provide a pleasant experience for them, ultimately giving them peace of mind during an uncertain time.

Having all your critical data stored securely, utilising digital communication tools with customers and employees and providing digital options for customers during the finance process, will help reduce disruption to your business during a risk event and will ensure your business recovers much quicker post-disaster.

To learn more about how illion’s BankStatements technology improves business efficiency and gives mortgage and finance brokers a competitive edge, especially during a crisis, get in touch with our team.