With the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) front and center across the world, SmartBrief caught up with Kenneth E. Bentsen, Jr., SIFMA president and CEO, to discuss how the industry is protecting personnel and maintaining operational resiliency during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Can you give an overview of when the BCP group started monitoring COVID-19?
As COVID-19 started to manifest itself in Asia, the industry pulled together both private and public sector watching it across the horizon, understanding how it was impacting financial services in China, Hong Kong and Singapore and understanding how the industry was responding to staff, markets, and infrastructure. One of the things that SIFMA has done back in 2007-2008, working with others in the public sector, was to do a pandemic exercise. We had an after-action report that is similar to the exercise to what we’re experiencing today. So we’re able to use that as a resource to understand how, as common practice, firms should be implementing, certain practices that help protect their staff.
Is this a regular function that the industry through its trades like SIFMA conducts with the public sector?
A lot of this activity around the BCP that we are engaged in has to do with how do we share information, how do we communicate to the industry at large, how do we escalate as incidents could potentially impact how markets and our personnel, how do we escalate in a way that helps decision-makers understand the impact both in the industry and as well as with policymakers. And then, key to all of this, we work in a very regulatory environment, so how do we make sure that we’re continuing to talk to policymakers and the regulatory community as to what the impacts are to financial services and our industry.
What’s the cadence of calls with the public sector that you’re experiencing now in the BCP side?
Where we are today, certainly as the situation escalated in Europe and now more here in the U.S., we’re meeting multiple times a day with key industry participants as it relates to the functioning of the markets. Also, SIFMA and our board are in daily communications and then across our broader membership.
How does SIFMA and its firms maintain compliance with the multiple rules that we are subject to whether it’s from the SEC, the CFTC, FINRA, the prudential regulators and the states?
Liaising with our regulators on how we work around issues and we are also trying to provide real-time market commentary to the regulators so they have yet another window into the marketplace where they can understand where there might be pressure or stresses that might be going on in order to maintain regular market operations. The goal for both the industry and our regulators is to keep markets operating in a fair and orderly fashion and to do it in a way that meets the rule sets.
What else would you add as you’re going through the process right now?
The most important thing, which is often the case during periods of extreme stress, is that we share information, that we keep it fresh, and that we make sure we’re protecting our people while at the same time making sure that we have fair and orderly markets.
For more, listen to Ken Bentsen and Tom Price, SIFMA’s head of Operations, Technology and Business Continuity, discuss industry efforts on The SIFMA Podcast.