Sandy Provides Lessons on Business Continuity Planning

Terry Flanagan

Robust and resilient describe the response by both systems and people in the wake of the destruction by Hurricane Sandy in the New York metropolitan area.

The destructive winds and tidal surges of Sandy, which hit New York on October 29, cut power to hundreds of thousands of homes and offices and plunged lower Manhattan into darkness. Subway services have been severely disrupted in the days following the disaster and for commuters out of the city the journey in has proved taxing.

But for some companies, their well-rehearsed disaster plans have helped in these tricky times.

Joe Stensland EVP, product and delivery management, Scivantage

Joe Stensland, EVP product and delivery management, Scivantage

“Our business continuity plan calls for us to ensure our clients’ day-to-day business operations are prioritized—meaning staff can and will be repositioned/reallocated to ensure business-critical operations are not impacted,” said Joe Stensland, executive vice-president of product and delivery management at Scivantage, a Jersey City-based technology provider.

Scivantage provides front and middle office technology covering trade order processing, event notification management and portfolio tax reporting. Its Maxit platform provides cost basis analysis as well as advanced tax management to help investors avoid wash sale deferrals and harvest tax losses.

The New Jersey company also offers turnkey account management and online brokerage systems, which are provided as a software-as-a-service.

Scivantage’s business continuity plan allowed the firm to operate through and after the storm. Although their Jersey City headquarters were hit hard, Scivantage’s service was uninterrupted.

“Day-to-day operations continue to move forward,” Stensland said. “Client support and relationship management teams continue to be available to assist as needed.”

One of the key lessons of Sandy is that business continuity plans must address the recovery of people as well as systems.

“Lots of firms focus on the resiliency of systems, which is critical,” said Stensland. “But what happened to a lot of firms, including ours, was the issue of access by employees to the building. We lost our primary office, where 80% of our employees work, due to a water breach on the first floor.”

Eze Castle Integration, a provider of IT services to asset management firms, which has an office in Manhattan, had worked closely with clients in the days leading up to Sandy.

“Overall, the majority of our clients were adequately prepared,” said Mary Beth Hamilton, head of marketing at Eze Castle Integration. “However, there were lessons learned, and it was an eye-opening experience. We work with clients on both business continuity plans as well as providing disaster recovery services so they can failover to a redundant infrastructure.

Leading up to this storm, we worked with clients to ensure they had appropriate processes in place and the ability to communicate with employees if they couldn’t get to the office, and allow them to work remotely.”

Eight hedge fund clients of Eze Castle Integration activated their disaster recovery production systems following Sandy. “We worked with them on failover,” said Hamilton. “Many of our clients put us on notice that they may be activating their disaster recovery plans. We also have a hedge fund ‘hotel’ in midtown Manhattan, which stayed operational 24/7.”

Scivantage had already planned for most of its employees to work remotely, which provided invaluable.

“Part of our business continuity plan is to make sure our employees are able to work,” said Stensland at Scivantage. “Our employees for the most part were able to be productive almost immediately after the storm, as well as our systems.”

By ensuring it was able to bounce back quickly, Scivantage was able to maintain service and lend additional support to customers, many of whom were also hit by the storm.

For example, one of its products, Scivantage Investor, an online trading system, allows brokers to post messages and communicated with clients. “Our brokers normally do that themselves, but in several instances they had employee access problems so we updated their sites for them,” said Stensland.

Another example is a system that allows brokers to offer their clients the ability to enter orders after hours. “On Monday, some orders couldn’t be released, so we managed and helped them through that queuing process,” said Stensland. “Their self-service is part of our software, and we stepped in and helped them.”

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