How to Write a Business Continuity Plan Step-by-Step: Our Experts Provide Tips

By Andy Marker | October 21, 2020 (updated August 17, 2021)

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In order to adequately prepare for a crisis, your company needs a business continuity plan. We’ve culled detailed step-by-step instructions, as well as expert tips for writing a business continuity plan and free downloadable tools.  

Included on this page, find the steps to writing a business continuity plan and a discussion of the key components in a plan . You’ll also find a business continuity plan quick-start template  and a disruptive incident quick-reference card template for print or mobile, and an expert disaster preparation checklist .

Step by Step: How to Write a Business Continuity Plan

A business continuity plan refers to the steps a company takes to help it continue operations during a crisis. In order to write a business continuity plan, you gather information about key people, tools, and processes, then write the plan as procedures and lists of resources. 

To make formatting easy, download a free business continuity plan template . To learn more about the role of a business continuity plan, read our comprehensive guide to business continuity planning . 

  • Write a Mission Statement for the Plan: Describe the objectives of the plan. When does it need to be completed? What is the budget for disaster and recovery preparation, including research, training, consultants, and tools? Be sure to detail any assumptions about financial or other resources, such as government business continuity grants.
  • Set Up Governance: Describe the business continuity team. Include names or titles and role designations, as well as contact information. Clearly define roles, lines of authority and succession, and accountability. Add an organization or a functional diagram. Select one of these free organizational chart templates to get started.
  • Write the Plan Procedures and Appendices: This is the core of your plan. There's no one correct way to create a business continuity document, but the critical content it should include are procedures, agreements, and resources.Think of your plan as lists of tasks or processes that people must perform to keep your operation running. Be specific in your directions, and use diagrams and illustrations. Remember that checklists and work instructions are simple and powerful tools to convey key information in a crisis. Learn more about procedures and work instructions . You should also note who on the team is responsible for knowing plan details.

Michele Barry

  • Set Procedures for Testing Recovery and Response: Create test guidelines and schedules for testing. To review the plan, consider reaching out to people who did not write the plan. Put together the forms and checklists that attendees will use during tests.

Alex Fullick

A business continuity plan is governed by a business continuity policy. You can learn more about creating a business continuity policy and find examples by reading our guide on developing an effective business continuity policy .

How to Create a Business Continuity Plan

Creating a business continuity plan (BCP) involves gathering a team, studying risks and key tasks, and choosing recovery activities. Then write the plan as a set of lists and guidelines, which may address risks such as fires, floods, pandemics, or data breaches.

According to Alex Fullick, your best bet is to create a simple plan. “I usually break everything down into three key categories: people, places, and things. If you focus on a couple of key pieces, you will be a lot more effective. That big binder of procedures is absolutely worthless. You need a bunch of guidelines to say what you do in a given situation: where are our triggers for deciding we’re in a crisis and we have to stop doing XYZ, and just focus on ABC.” 

“Post-pandemic, I think new managers will develop more policies and guidelines of all types than required, as a fear response,” cautions Michele Barry. 

Because every company is different, no two approaches to business continuity planning are the same. Tony Bombacino, Co-Founder and President of Real Food Blends , describes his company’s formal and informal business continuity approaches. “The first step in any crisis is for our nerve center to connect quickly, assess the situation, and then go into action,” he explains. 

Tony Bombacino

“Our sales manager and our marketing manager might discuss what’s going on, and say, ‘Are we going to say anything on social media? Do we need to reach out to any of our customers? The key things, like maintaining stock levels or what if somebody gets sick? What if there's a recall?’ Those plans we have laid out. But we're not a 5,000-person multi-billion-dollar company, so our business continuity plan is often in emails and Google Docs.” 

Mike Semel

“I've done planning literally for hundreds of businesses where we've just filled out basic forms,” says Mike Semel, President and Chief Compliance Officer of Semel Consulting . “For example, noting the insurance company's phone number — you know, on the back of your utility bill, which you never look at, there's an emergency number for if the power goes out or if the gas shuts off. We've helped people gather all that information and put it down. Even if there's no other plan, just having that information at their fingertips when they need it may be enough.”

You can also approach your business continuity planning as including three types of responses:

  • Proactive Strategies: Proactive approaches prevent crises. For example, you may buy an emergency generator to keep power running in your factory, or install a security system to prevent or limit loss during break-ins. Or you may create a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy and offer training for remote workers to protect your network and data security.
  • Reactive Strategies: Reactive strategies are your immediate responses to a crisis. Examples of reactive methods include evacuation procedures, fire procedures, and emergency response strategies.
  • Recovery Strategies: Recovery strategies describe how you resume operations to produce a minimum acceptable level of service. The recovery plan includes actions to stand up temporary processes. The plan also describes the longer-term efforts, such as relocation, data restoration, temporary workaround processes, or outsourcing tasks. Recovery strategies are not limited to IT and data recovery.

Quick-Start Guide Business Continuity Plan Template

Business Continuity Quick Start Guide and template

If you don’t already have a business continuity plan in place, but need to create one in short order to respond to a disruption, use this quick-start business continuity template. This template is available in Word and Google Docs formats, and it’s simply formatted so that you can focus on brainstorming and problem-solving. 

Download Quick-Start Guide Business Continuity Plan Template

Word | PDF | Google Docs | Smartsheet

For other most useful free, downloadable business continuity plan (BCP) templates please read our "Free Business Continuity Plan Templates" article.

Key Components of a Business Continuity Plan

Your company’s complete business continuity plan will have many details. Your plan may differ from other companies' plans based on industry and other factors. Each facility or business unit may also conduct an impact analysis and create disaster recovery and continuity plans . Consider adding these key components to your business plan:

  • Contact Information: These pages include contact information for key employees, vendors, and critical third parties. Locate this information at the beginning of the plan. 
  • Business Impact Analysis: When you conduct business impact analysis (BIA), you evaluate the financial and other changes in a disruptive event (you can use one of these business impact templates to get started). Evaluate impact in terms of brand damage, product failure or malfunction, lost revenue, or legal and regulatory repercussions.
  • Risk Assessment: In this section, assess the potential risks to all aspects of the organization’s operations. Look at potential risks related to such matters as cash on hand, stock levels, and staff qualifications. Although you may face an infinite number of potential internal and external risks, focus on people, places, and things to keep from becoming overwhelmed. Then analyze the effects of any items that are completely lost or need repairs. Also, understand that risk assessment is an ongoing effort that works in tandem with training and testing. Consider adding a completed risk matrix to your plan. You can create one using a downloadable risk matrix template . 
  • Critical Functions Analysis and List: As a faster alternative to a BIA, a critical functions analysis reveals what processes are critical to keeping your company running. Examples of critical functions include payroll and wages, accounts receivable, customer service, or production. According to Michele Barry, with a values-based approach to critical functions, you should consider who you really are as a company. Then decide what you must continue doing and what you can stop doing. 
  • Trigger and Disaster Declaration Criteria: Here, you should detail how your executive management will know when to declare an emergency and initiate the plan.
  • Succession Plan: Identify alternate staff for key roles in each unit. Schedule time throughout the year to observe alternates as they make important decisions and complete recovery tasks.
  • Alternate Suppliers: If your goods are regulated (i.e., food, toy, and pharmaceutical manufacturing), your raw resources and parts must always be up to standard. Source suppliers before a crisis to ensure that regulatory vetting and approval do not delay supplies. 
  • Operations Plan: Describe how your organization will resume and continue daily operations after a disruption. Include a checklist with such items as supplies, equipment, and information on where data is backed up and where you keep the plan. Note who should have copies of the plan. 
  • Crisis Communication Strategy: Detail how the organization will communicate with employees, customers, and third-party entities in the event of a disruption. If regular communications systems are disabled, make a plan for alternate methods. Download a free crisis communication strategy template to get started on this aspect. 
  • Incident Response Plan: Describe how your organization plans to respond to a range of likely incidents or disruptions, and define the triggers for activating the plan. 
  • Alternate Site Relocation: The alternate site is the location that the organization moves to after a disruption occurs. In the plan, you can also note the transportation and resources required to move the business and the processes you must maintain in this facility.
  • Interim Procedures: These are the critical processes that must continue, either in their original or alternate forms.
  • Restoration of Critical Data: Critical data includes anything you must immediately recover to maintain normal business functions.
  • Vendor Partner Agreements: List your organization’s key vendors and how they can help you maintain or resume operations.
  • Work Backlog: This includes the work that piles up when systems are shut down. You must complete this work first when processes start again.
  • Recovery Strategy for IT Services: This section details the steps you take to restore the IT processes that are necessary to maintain the business.
  • Recovery Time Objectives (RTO) and Recovery Point Objectives (RPO): RTO refers to the maximum amount of time that a company can stop its processes and the length of time without access to data before productivity substantially drops. Determine RTOs for each unit, factoring in people, places, and things. 
  • Backup Plans: What if plans, processes, or resources fail or are unavailable? Determine alternatives now, so you don't have to scramble. Decide on a backup roster for personnel who are unavailable.
  • Manual Workarounds: This section details how a business can operate by hand, should all failsafe measures break down.
  • External Audit Details: For regulated organizations, external audits may be compulsory. Your scheduled internal audits will prepare you for external audits.
  • Test and Exercise Plan: Identify how and when you will test the continuity plan, including details about periodic tabletop testing and more complex real-world scenario testing.
  • Change Management: Note how you will incorporate learnings from tests and exercises, disseminate changes, and review the plan and track changes.

Key Resources for Business Continuity

To fix problems, restore operations, or submit an insurance claim, you need readily available details of the human resources and other groups that can assist with business continuity. (Your organization's unique situation may also require specific types of resources.) Add this information to appendices at the back of your continuity plan.

Fullick suggests broadening the definition of human assets. "People are our employees, certainly. But we forget that the term ‘people’ includes executive management. Management doesn't escape pandemics or the flu or a car crash. Bad things can happen to them and around them, too." 

Use the following list as a prompt for recording important information about your organization. Your unique situation may require other types of information.

  • Lists of key employees and their contact information. Also, think beyond C-level and response team members to staff with long-term or specialized knowledge
  • Disaster recovery and continuity team contact names, roles, and contact information
  • Emergency contact number for police and emergency services for your location
  • Non-emergency contact information for police and medical
  • Emergency and non-emergency contact numbers for facilities issues
  • Board member contact information
  • Personnel roster, including family or emergency contact names and numbers for the entire organization
  • Contractors for any repairs
  • Client contact information and SLAs
  • Insurance contacts for all plans
  • Key regulatory contacts.
  • Legal contacts
  • Vendor contact information and partner agreements and SLAs
  • Addresses and details for each office or facility
  • Primary and secondary contact and information for each facility or office, including at least one phone number and email address
  • Off-site recovery location
  • Addresses and access information for storage facilities or vehicle compounds
  • Funding and banking information
  • IT details and data recovery information, including an inventory of apps and license numbers  
  • Insurance policy numbers and agent contact information for each plan, healthcare, property, vehicle, etc.
  • Inventory of tangibles, including equipment, hardware, supplies, fixtures, and fittings (if you are a supplier or manufacturer, include an inventory of raw materials and finished goods)
  • Lease details
  • Licenses, permits, other legal documents
  • List of special items that you use regularly, but don't order frequently
  • Location of backup equipment
  • Utility account numbers and contact information (for electric, gas, telephone, water, waste pickup, etc.)

Activities to Complete Before Writing the Business Continuity Plan

Before you write your plan, take these preliminary steps to assemble a team and gather background information. 

  • Incident Commander: This person is responsible for all aspects of an emergency response.
  • Emergency Response Team: The emergency response team refers to the group of people in charge of responding to an emergency or disruption.
  • Information Technology Recovery Team: This group is responsible for recovering important IT services.
  • Alternate Site/Location Operation Team: This team is responsible for maintaining business operations at an alternate site.
  • Facilities Management Team: The facilities management team is responsible for managing all of the main business facilities and determining the necessary responses to maintain them in light of a disaster or disruption.
  • Department Upper Management: This includes key stakeholders and upper management employees who govern BCP decisions.
  • Conduct business impact analysis or critical function analysis. Understand how the loss of processes in each department can affect internal and external operations. See our article on business continuity planning to learn more about BIAs.
  • Conduct risk analysis. Determine the potential risks and threats to your organization.
  • Identify the scope of the plan. Define where the business continuity plan applies, whether to one office, the entire organization, or only certain aspects of the organization. Use the BIA and risk analysis to identify critical functions and key resources that you must maintain. Set goals to determine the level of detail required. Set milestones to track progress in completing the plan. "Setting scope is essential," Barry insists. "You need to define the core and noncore aspects of the business and the minimum requirements for achieving continuity."
  • Strategize recovery approaches: Strategize how your business should respond to a disruption, based on your risk assessment and BIA. During this process, you determine the core details of the BCP, add the key components and resources, and determine the timing for what must happen before, during, and after a disruptive event.

Common Structure of a Business Continuity Plan

Knowing the common structure should help shape the plan — and frees you from thinking about form when you should be thinking about content. Here is an example of a BCP format:

  • Business Name: Record the business name, which usually appears on the title page.
  • Date: The day the BCP is completed and signed off. 
  • Purpose and Scope: This section describes the reason for and span of the plan.
  • Business Impact Analysis: Add the results of the BIA to your plan.  
  • Risk Assessment: Consider adding the risk assessment matrix to your plan.
  • Policy Information: Include the business continuity policy or policy highlights.
  • Emergency Management and Response: You can detail emergency response measures separately from other recovery and continuity procedures.
  • The Plan: The core of the plan details step-by-step procedures for business recovery and continuity.
  • Relevant Appendices: Appendices can include such information as contact lists, org charts, copies of insurance policies, or any supporting documents relevant in a crisis.

Keep in mind that every business is different — no two BCPs look the same. Tailor your business continuity plan to your company, and make sure the document captures all the information you need to keep your business functioning. Having everything you need to know in an emergency is the most crucial part of a BCP.

Disruptive Incident Quick-Reference Card Template

Disruptive Incident Quick Reference Cad Template

Use this quick-reference card template to write the key steps that employees should take in case of an emergency. Customize this template for each business unit, department, or role. Describe what people should do immediately and in the following days and weeks to continue the business. Print PDFs and laminate them for workstations or wallets, or load the PDFs on your mobile phone. 

Download Disruptive Incident Quick-Reference Card Template 

Expert Disaster Preparation Checklist

Business continuity and disaster planning aren’t just about your buildings and cloud backup — it’s about people and their families. Based on a document by Mike Semel of Semel Consulting, this disaster checklist helps you prepare for the human needs of your staff and their families, including food, shelter, and other comforts.

Tips for Writing a Business Continuity Plan

With its many moving parts and considerations, a business continuity plan can seem intimidating. Follow these tips to help you write, track, and maintain a strong BCP:

  • Take the continuity management planning  process seriously.
  • Interview key people in the organization who have successfully managed disruptive incidents.
  • Get approval from leadership early on and seek their ongoing championship of continuity preparedness.
  • Be flexible when it comes to who you involve, what resources you need, and how you achieve the most effective plan.
  • Keep the plan as simple and targeted as possible to make it easy to understand.
  • Limit the plan to practical disaster response actions.
  • Base the plan on the most up-to-date, accurate information available.
  • Plan for the worst-case scenario and broadly cover many types of potential disruptive situations. 
  • Consider the minimum amount of information or resources you need to keep your business running in a disaster. 
  • Use the data you gather in your BIA and risk analysis to make the planning process more straightforward.
  • Share the plan and make sure employees have a chance to review it or ask questions. 
  • Make the document available in hard copy for easy access, or add it to a shared platform. 
  • Continually test, review, and maintain your plan to keep it up to date. 
  • Keep the BCP current with organizational and regulatory changes and updates.

Empower Your Teams to Build Business Continuity with Smartsheet

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The Smartsheet platform makes it easy to plan, capture, manage, and report on work from anywhere, helping your team be more effective and get more done. Report on key metrics and get real-time visibility into work as it happens with roll-up reports, dashboards, and automated workflows built to keep your team connected and informed. 

When teams have clarity into the work getting done, there’s no telling how much more they can accomplish in the same amount of time.  Try Smartsheet for free, today.

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The Ultimate Guide To Business Continuity Management for Banks and Credit Unions

The Ultimate Guide To Business Continuity Management for Banks and Credit Unions

The Ultimate Guide To Business Continuity Management for Banks and Credit Unions

Regulatory Requirements

  • How to Develop a BCMP

Pandemic Planning and Business Continuity Strategy

The importance of integrating vendor management into the bcmp, importance of exercises and tests when updating the bcmp, automating the planning process.

business continuity plan template for banks

By Tom Hinkel

In November 2019, the Federal Financial Institution Examination Council (FFIEC) updated its BCP IT Examination Handbook and expanded its focus from Business Continuity Planning (BCP) to Business Continuity Management (BCM) . The change makes sense, because “planning” is only one part of the business continuity process. Business continuity management encompasses the entire process by integrating resilience, incident response, crisis management, third-party integration, disaster recovery , and business process continuity.

In the financial industry, community banks and credit unions are required to develop compliant business continuity plans that identify business processes along with their interdependencies that provide resilience to, and recovery from, all potential threats to the financial institution. BCM is designed to help organizations, regardless of their size, location or activity, minimize the impact of disruptions of any kind, natural or man-made, including cyber.

The new BCM guidance represents the first major update since 2015 and calls for all “entities” to rethink their approach to business continuity and be prepared to make appropriate plan revisions to meet these expectations. Entities are defined as depository financial institutions, nonbank financial institutions, bank holding companies, and third-party service providers. The use of this term is significant, as it essentially pulls all interdependencies into the planning process.

With so much at stake, it is important for financial institutions to understand the BCM process and the key requirements to develop the business continuity plan:

  • Regulatory requirements relevant to a compliant BCM Program
  • How to develop the business continuity management plan (BCMP)
  • Pandemic planning and business continuity strategy
  • The importance of integrating vendor management into the BCMP
  • Steps to effectively update and test the plan
  • The benefits of automating the BCM process

  To comply with regulatory expectations, financial institutions are required to focus on an enterprise-wide, process-oriented approach that considers technology, business operations, testing, and communication strategies that are critical to business continuity management for the entire organization, not just the information technology department. Regulations make it clear that institutions need to plan to perform their critical business functions, even if technology may be impaired or unavailable.

Auditors and examiners are also scrutinizing business continuity plans to verify that the institution’s methodology and plan structure closely adhere to the 2019 regulatory guidance. A key change in the guidance is the increased focus on resilience. Resilience is the ability to prepare for—and adapt to—changing conditions and both withstand and recover rapidly from disruptions, whether that includes deliberate attacks, accidents or naturally occurring threats or incidents. Two keys for understanding resiliency are the terms “withstand” and “recover”, with an emphasis on withstanding adverse events . In the past, business continuity planning has been focused more on recovery, but now the FFIEC has placed a heavy focus on resiliency. The ultimate goal is for financial institutions to be more proactive and minimize having to implement traditional recovery measures down the road. When going through the BCM process, resilience must be included from the very beginning of the process to successfully meet regulatory expectations.

How to Develop a BCMP – What to Include in the Plan

  It’s safe to say that most banks and credit unions have some sort of a BCMP in place, yet many struggle with determining what to include in the plan to ensure it is both recoverable and compliant. With the new changes to the guidance, many community banks and credit unions may also be wondering what specific changes they’ll need to make to meet these new expectations.

While each financial institution has a unique operating model based on its services, demographic profile, organizational processes, and technologies, the first step when drafting or updating the BCMP is to have a thorough understanding of all the functions and processes that make up those operations. This process, which we refer to as Enterprise Modeling , involves identifying all departments or functional units, with all associated processes and functions (including all internal and external interdependencies), and determining the team owners and members responsible for each department. Having representatives from each department take an active role in the planning process ensures the technologies and responsibilities for each area are accurately represented. This also helps the financial institution develop a more accurate assessment of its recovery time objectives and actual recovery capabilities. It is not realistic to have a single individual with all the knowledge and unique skill set required to put together a comprehensive BCMP.

A plan should consist of all the steps required to ensure key products and services remain available to customers or members. The BCMP consists of five phases including risk management (Business Impact Analysis, Risk/Threat Assessment); continuity strategies (Interdependency Resilience, Continuity and Recovery); training and testing (aka Exercises); maintenance and improvement; and board reporting.

Furthermore, the BCMP should be a “live” document that keeps pace with any changes in infrastructure, strategy, technology, and human resources. As soon as a plan is board approved, it should be tested, and a new draft plan should be initiated. At any point in time you should have both an approved plan, as well as a live draft to accommodate changes.

  In the past, financial institutions were required to have a separate pandemic plan, but the new FFIEC guidance instead expects community banks and credit unions to assess and manage pandemic risk alongside all other possible disasters. This means the BCM plan is the pandemic plan, and financial institutions must analyze the impact a pandemic can have on the organization; determine recovery time objectives (RTOs); and build out a recovery plan.

As we’ve all learned, pandemic planning is very different from natural disasters, technical disasters, malicious acts, or terrorist events because the impact of a pandemic is much more difficult to determine due to the differences in scale and duration. Pandemics also directly impact financial institution and third-party employees rather than targeting infrastructure or technology-based interdependencies. Cross training and succession planning should be a key part of the pandemic planning process to ensure operations can continue even if key individuals are unavailable.

FFIEC guidance states that the financial institution’s BCMP should include five key elements to address the unique challenges posed by a pandemic event:

  • A preventive program including monitoring of potential outbreaks; educating employees; communicating and coordinating with critical service providers and suppliers; and providing appropriate hygiene training and tools to employees
  • A documented strategy that provides for scaling the institution’s pandemic efforts to align with the current six-stage CDC framework
  • A comprehensive framework of facilities, systems, or procedures that provide the organization the capability to continue its critical operations in the event that large numbers of the institution’s staff are unavailable for prolonged periods
  • A testing program to ensure that the institution’s pandemic planning practices and capabilities are effective and will allow critical operations to continue
  • An oversight program to ensure ongoing review and updates to the pandemic plan

The vast majority of banks and credit unions today rely on third-party service providers, or vendors, to conduct business on a day-to-day basis. When financial institutions outsource key functions to a service provider, it creates a reliance on that third-party and exposes the institution to the risk of not being able to resume operations within pre-defined recovery time objectives in the event of a disruption. The FFIEC now expects critical third-party providers to be active participants in the BCM program, and it’s likely that regulators will require financial institutions to have a detailed understanding of the resilience capabilities of their core/technology service providers, cloud providers and others moving forward. When creating a BCMP, financial institutions have to account for all interdependent third-party relationships and identify the potential consequences a third-party disruption might have on its operations.

The criticality of the product or service the vendor provides is directly related to the criticality of the dependent process it supports, as identified by the business impact analysis. Some questions financial institutions should consider include:

  • How important is this vendor to what we do?
  • If they fail, how many of our dependent services would be negatively impacted?
  • How challenging would it be to replace this vendor?

Vendor criticality is expressed in terms of Recovery Time Objectives (RTOs) , and each bank or credit union determines and assigns the same RTOs to the third-party vendor as they have to the underlying process they support. In other words, if you’ve identified a two-day recovery time objective for a particular process, any underlying vendors will also inherit that same two-day RTO. In the event that the vendor cannot match your RTO (validated by testing), you must have a contingency plan in place such as alternative procedures or providers to compensate for the gap.

Successfully integrating vendor management and business continuity planning is essential for financial institutions to truly understand their actual recovery capabilities by validating whether or not their third-party providers “have sufficient recovery capabilities” to meet your recovery objectives.

  Exercises and tests are important parts of the process, and in fact, the BCMP is not complete until the plan has been thoroughly tested. The new handbook makes an important distinction between exercises and tests in the BCMP process, defining an exercise as “a task or activity involving people and processes that is designed to validate one or more aspects of the BCMP or related procedures.” On the other hand, a test is often performed “to verify the quality, performance, or reliability of system resilience in an operational environment.” The handbook emphasizes the importance of both exercises and tests to demonstrate resilience and recovery capabilities.

Exercises and testing verify the effectiveness of the plan by validating all recovery time objectives; helps train the team on what to do in a real-life scenario; and identifies areas where the plan needs to be strengthened. In addition, examiners are also verifying that a BCMP has been tested, and the financial institution is able to execute the plan if and when the need arises. Because the financial industry is considered part of the nation’s critical infrastructure, testing, exercises, and training will continue to be a focus going forward.

Every test should start with a realistic scenario drawn from the top threats as identified by the risk management phase of the planning process. Top threats are those determined to have both high impact and high probability ratings. While initial testing of a plan can be relatively straightforward, a bank or credit union should strive to extend the scope and severity of the exercise with each consecutive test by making the tests consecutively more complex and including different individuals. Conducting the very same test with the same participants every year will not satisfy examiners nor will it give your management the assurance they need.

In addition to the senior management and information security roles defined in a plan, the testing team should include key department heads with detailed knowledge of the processes and functions impacted by the scenario. Tests should cover the steps departmental managers must take to complete functions manually or in an alternate way. In addition, all departmental specialists should be included in the exercise and testing program. There are two reasons for that, the first is so they are familiar with alternate procedures in emergency scenarios, the second is to make sure you have backups, or successors, to your primary recovery resources. Succession planning is another hot button item with examiners now because of the pandemic.

While regulators require proof of exercises and testing annually, more frequent testing is indicated whenever a previous test uncovered significant gaps in the plan, or if there are significant internal changes to processes or infrastructure or personnel.

To help streamline this time-consuming process, banks and credit unions can automate repetitive portions of business continuity planning. Automating these activities eliminates the need to update cumbersome spreadsheets and manually copy/paste information from various reports and previous assessments. The 2019 guidance requires a number of changes to your existing plan, some subtle and some significant.

An automated BCP solution will also help guide banks and credit unions through the entire BCMP process, assuring that all required elements are included as they are necessitated by regulatory guidance changes. Automating the planning process makes it easier and much less time-consuming to perform annual plan updates by allowing static portions of the plan to carry forward, while incorporating changes wherever necessary. Any automated solution should also allow you to identify all material plan changes from year-to-year, so management and board approval is easier.

  Business Continuity Management is a critical process for banks and credit unions regardless of size and location, and the plan is central to that effort. To streamline the planning process, financial institutions should integrate business continuity into all business decisions; conduct periodic reviews of the plan; and perform regular testing. Everyone in the organization — from the tellers to the Board — should understand the importance of business continuity planning and how his or her unique role fits into the financial institution’s overall business continuity strategy.

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Business Continuity Plan in Banks: Ensuring Uninterrupted Operations

February 1, 2024

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A Business Continuity Plan (BCP) in banks is a strategic framework that ensures uninterrupted operations and service delivery during and after a disaster or crisis.

Banks need to remain resilient during crises and comply with regulatory requirements . A comprehensive BCP will include strategies for risk mitigation , preparedness, quick recovery from operational disruptions , and maintaining critical functions.

It often involves reviewing exposures , identifying critical business functions, and preparing for various scenarios, including natural disasters, cyber-attacks, or any event that could significantly impact the bank’s ability to operate.

An effective BCP in banking focuses on maintaining, resuming, and recovering business operations, including the technology infrastructure critical for day-to-day functions.

A bank’s BCP process should reflect objectives that align with regulatory expectations and best practices to ensure the institution can continue to provide essential services to its customers, even in adverse conditions.

This includes having a checklist, tips for creating a robust plan and addressing frequently asked questions to guide banks in developing their own BCP strategies ( AlertMedia , FDIC ).

Banks are essential to the global economy, and their operations must be resilient to disruptions. As such, business continuity planning (BCP) is a critical aspect of the banking industry.

A business continuity plan for a bank is a comprehensive set of procedures and strategies that aim to ensure that the bank can continue operating in the event of a disruption.

A business continuity plan in banks is designed to identify potential disruptions and outline the steps that must be taken to mitigate their impact. The plan should address various scenarios, including natural disasters , cyber-attacks, pandemics, and other events that can cause significant disruptions to the bank’s operations.

The BCP must also consider the bank’s critical functions, such as payment processing, customer service, and data management , among others.

Key Takeaways

  • Business continuity planning is crucial for banks to ensure their operations can continue in the event of a disruption.
  • A business continuity plan must identify potential disruptions and outline the steps that must be taken to mitigate their impact.
  • The plan should address various scenarios, consider the bank’s critical functions, and comply with regulatory standards.

Understanding Business Continuity Planning

Concept of business continuity.

Business Continuity Planning (BCP) is the process of creating a strategy to ensure that essential business functions continue to operate during and after a disaster or other disruptive event.

The goal of BCP is to minimize the impact of the disruption and to ensure that the organization can continue to operate with as little disruption as possible.

Business continuity plans typically identify the critical business processes and the interdependencies between them. They also outline the steps that need to be taken to ensure that these processes can be restored quickly and efficiently in the event of a disruption.

business continuity plan

This includes identifying the resources that will be needed, such as personnel, facilities, and technology.

Importance for Financial Institutions

Business Continuity Planning is particularly important for financial institutions like banks and credit unions. Regulators require these institutions to have a BCP in place to ensure that they can continue providing essential services to their customers during a disruption.

The impact of a disruption to a financial institution can be significant in terms of financial losses and damage to reputation.

A well-designed and tested BCP can help to minimize these risks and ensure that the institution can continue to operate with minimal disruption.

Business Continuity Planning is a critical process for financial institutions to ensure that they can continue to operate in the event of a disruption.

By identifying critical business processes and interdependencies and outlining the steps needed to restore them, financial institutions can minimize the impact of a disruption and ensure that they can continue to provide essential services to their customers.

Key Components of a Business Continuity Plan

A Business Continuity Plan (BCP) is a comprehensive plan that outlines an organization’s procedures and strategies for recovering from significant disruptions.

For banks, a BCP is essential to ensure that they can continue to provide services to their customers and maintain their reputation in the market.

Business Impact Analysis

The first step in developing a BCP is to conduct a Business Impact Analysis (BIA). A BIA identifies the bank’s critical functions and the potential impact of disruptions to those functions.

It also identifies the resources required to recover those functions. A BIA helps the bank prioritize its recovery efforts and allocate resources effectively.

Recovery Strategies

Once the BIA is complete, the bank can develop recovery strategies to address the potential disruptions identified in the analysis.

Recovery strategies should include procedures for restoring critical functions and systems and plans for communicating with customers, employees, and other stakeholders.

Plan Development and Documentation

The final step in developing a BCP is documenting the plan and procedures. The plan should be comprehensive and easy to understand, with clear instructions for each recovery process step.

It should also include contact information for key personnel and vendors and backup plans in case the primary recovery strategies are ineffective.

A well-developed BCP is critical to ensuring that a bank can continue to provide services to its customers and maintain its reputation in the market.

a disaster

By conducting a thorough BIA, developing effective recovery strategies, and documenting the plan and procedures, a bank can be confident that it is prepared to recover from significant disruptions.

Operational Resilience in Banks

Banks must have a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) in place to ensure that they can continue to provide essential services to their customers in the event of a disruption.

However, in recent years, regulators have expanded the scope of BCP to encompass all aspects of resilience, including operational and cyber resilience . This shift has led to the development of the Operational Resilience (OR) concept in banks.

Technology and Infrastructure

Technology and infrastructure are critical components of OR in banks. Banks must ensure that their IT systems and infrastructure are resilient and can withstand disruptions.

This includes having redundant systems in place, ensuring that backups are regularly tested and updated, and having a disaster recovery plan .

Banks also need to ensure that their staff are trained in the use of the IT systems and infrastructure and that they are aware of the procedures to follow in the event of a disruption.

This includes having clear communication channels in place, both internally and externally, and having a system for reporting and tracking issues.

Financial Services Continuity

Financial services continuity is another key component of OR in banks. Banks need to ensure that they can continue to provide essential financial services to their customers in the event of a disruption.

This includes having contingency plans for critical business processes, such as payment processing and account management.

Banks also need to ensure that their staff are trained in the procedures to follow in the event of a disruption, and that they are aware of the importance of maintaining financial services continuity .

Operational Resilience is a critical component of the Business Continuity Plan in banks. Banks need to ensure that their IT systems and infrastructure are resilient, that their staff are trained in the procedures to follow in the event of a disruption, and that they have contingency plans for critical business processes.

By doing so, banks can ensure that they can continue to provide essential services to their customers in the event of a disruption.

Risk Management and Impact Analysis

Banks are exposed to various risks resulting in financial loss , reputational damage, and legal liabilities. Therefore, risk management is a critical aspect of business continuity planning .

The following are the two main components of risk management and impact analysis:

Identifying and Assessing Risks

The first step in risk management is to identify and assess potential risks that can disrupt the bank’s operations. This includes internal and external risks, such as cyber-attacks, natural disasters, power outages, and human errors.

Banks can use various techniques, such as risk assessment matrices , scenario analysis, and historical data analysis, to identify and prioritize risks .

Conducting Business Impact Analysis

Once the risks are identified and prioritized, the next step is to conduct a business impact analysis (BIA). A BIA assesses the potential impact of a disruption on the bank’s critical business processes and functions.

It helps banks identify their recovery time objectives (RTOs) and recovery point objectives (RPOs) for each critical process.

Banks should identify the interdependencies between their critical processes and functions during the BIA. This helps to ensure that the recovery of one process does not depend on the recovery of another process.

Banks should also identify the resources required to recover critical processes, such as personnel, technology, and facilities.

Risk management and impact analysis are critical components of business continuity planning for banks. By identifying and assessing potential risks and conducting a BIA, banks can develop effective strategies to mitigate the impact of disruptions on their critical business processes and functions.

business impact analysis

Testing and Maintenance of BCP

Business Continuity Plan (BCP) is essential to any bank’s risk management strategy . Testing and maintaining the plan is crucial to ensure the bank is prepared for any unexpected event.

This section will discuss the importance of regular testing procedures and updating and improving the plan.

Regular Testing Procedures

Regular testing procedures are essential to ensure that the BCP is effective and can be implemented promptly and efficiently.

Banks should test their BCP at least once a year to identify any weaknesses and areas for improvement. The testing process should involve all relevant stakeholders, including senior management, IT staff, and other key personnel.

The testing process should include a range of scenarios, including natural disasters, cyber-attacks, and other potential threats.

Banks should also measure the effectiveness of their BCP against predefined metrics to ensure that the plan meets the required standards. The testing process results should be documented and reviewed by senior management to identify any areas for improvement.

Updating and Improving the Plan

BCP is not a one-time exercise, and banks should regularly update and improve their plan to ensure it remains effective.

Banks should review their BCP at least once a year to identify any changes in the business environment and update the plan accordingly. This includes changes in the bank’s operations, IT infrastructure, and regulatory requirements.

Banks should also identify any weaknesses in their BCP and take steps to improve the plan. This may include updating the plan to include new processes, technologies, or procedures. Banks should also ensure their staff is trained to implement the updated plan effectively.

Testing and maintenance of the BCP is essential to ensure that banks can respond effectively to unexpected events. Regular testing procedures and updating and improving the plan are crucial to ensure that the BCP remains effective and meets the required standards.

Training and Awareness

Banks must have a comprehensive training program to ensure that all personnel know the business continuity plan and their roles in its implementation.

This training program can include both online and in-person training sessions and regular drills and exercises to test the plan’s effectiveness.

Employee Training Programs

Employee training programs should cover the following topics:

  • The purpose and scope of the business continuity plan .
  • The roles and responsibilities of each employee in the event of a disruption.
  • The procedures for activating the plan and contacting key stakeholders.
  • The communication channels that will be used during a disruption.
  • The steps that must be taken to resume normal operations.
  • The importance of maintaining accurate and up-to-date contact information.

Training sessions should be tailored to each employee’s specific roles and responsibilities.

For example, IT personnel may require more in-depth training on the technical aspects of the plan, while customer service representatives may require more training on communication protocols.

Stakeholder Communication

Effective communication with stakeholders is critical during a disruption. Banks should have a communication plan outlining the procedures for contacting stakeholders and keeping them informed.

The communication plan should include the following:

  • A list of key stakeholders, including customers, vendors, and regulators.
  • The communication channels, such as phone, email, or social media, will be used to contact stakeholders.
  • The frequency of updates and the information that will be provided.
  • The procedures for escalating communication if necessary.

Banks should also conduct regular communication drills to test the effectiveness of the communication plan and identify any areas that need improvement.

A comprehensive training and awareness program is essential for ensuring that banks are prepared to respond effectively to disruptions and minimize the impact on their operations.

Regulatory Compliance and Standards

Business Continuity Planning (BCP) is essential for banks to remain resilient during crises and comply with regulatory requirements and industry standards.

Banks must adhere to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Rule 4370, which spells out the required BCP procedures.

Compliance with Financial Regulations

Banks must ensure that their BCP is appropriate to the scale and scope of their operations and adheres to financial regulations.

Compliance with financial regulations is crucial for banks to maintain their reputation and avoid regulatory penalties. Banks must identify potential risks and develop a BCP to mitigate those risks and ensure continuity of operations.

Banks must also ensure that their BCP meets the objectives of financial regulations . The objectives of financial regulations include protecting customers’ interests, maintaining the financial system’s stability, and preventing financial crimes.

compliance, risk culture

Adhering to Industry Standards

Banks must adhere to industry standards to ensure that their BCP is effective and meets the requirements of regulators.

Industry standards provide guidance on the development and implementation of BCPs, including risk assessment , technical solutions, HR and training, and a Business Impact Analysis (BIA).

Banks must also ensure their vendors or third-party service providers maintain a BCP. Exit strategy plans are developed by front-line units and control functions to ensure that the bank can continue to operate during a crisis.

Banks must comply with financial regulations and adhere to industry standards to develop an effective BCP . Compliance with financial regulations and industry standards is essential for banks to maintain their reputation, avoid regulatory penalties, and ensure continuity of operations.

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Chris Ekai is a Risk Management expert with over 10 years of experience in the field. He has a Master’s(MSc) degree in Risk Management from University of Portsmouth and is a CPA and Finance professional. He currently works as a Content Manager at Risk Publishing, writing about Enterprise Risk Management, Business Continuity Management and Project Management.

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What is a business continuity plan (bcp), and how does it work.

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What Is a Business Continuity Plan (BCP)? 

A business continuity plan (BCP) is a system of prevention and recovery from potential threats to a company. The plan ensures that personnel and assets are protected and are able to function quickly in the event of a disaster.

Key Takeaways

  • Business continuity plans (BCPs) are prevention and recovery systems for potential threats, such as natural disasters or cyber-attacks.
  • BCP is designed to protect personnel and assets and make sure they can function quickly when disaster strikes.
  • BCPs should be tested to ensure there are no weaknesses, which can be identified and corrected.

Understanding Business Continuity Plans (BCPs)

BCP involves defining any and all risks that can affect the company's operations, making it an important part of the organization's risk management strategy. Risks may include natural disasters—fire, flood, or weather-related events—and cyber-attacks . Once the risks are identified, the plan should also include:

  • Determining how those risks will affect operations
  • Implementing safeguards and procedures to mitigate the risks
  • Testing procedures to ensure they work
  • Reviewing the process to make sure that it is up to date

BCPs are an important part of any business. Threats and disruptions mean a loss of revenue and higher costs, which leads to a drop in profitability. And businesses can't rely on insurance alone because it doesn't cover all the costs and the customers who move to the competition. It is generally conceived in advance and involves input from key stakeholders and personnel.

Business impact analysis, recovery, organization, and training are all steps corporations need to follow when creating a Business Continuity Plan.

Benefits of a Business Continuity Plan

Businesses are prone to a host of disasters that vary in degree from minor to catastrophic. Business continuity planning is typically meant to help a company continue operating in the event of major disasters such as fires. BCPs are different from a disaster recovery plan, which focuses on the recovery of a company's IT system after a crisis.

Consider a finance company based in a major city. It may put a BCP in place by taking steps including backing up its computer and client files offsite. If something were to happen to the company's corporate office, its satellite offices would still have access to important information.

An important point to note is that BCP may not be as effective if a large portion of the population is affected, as in the case of a disease outbreak. Nonetheless, BCPs can improve risk management—preventing disruptions from spreading. They can also help mitigate downtime of networks or technology, saving the company money.

How to Create a Business Continuity Plan

There are several steps many companies must follow to develop a solid BCP. They include:

  • Business Impact Analysis : Here, the business will identify functions and related resources that are time-sensitive. (More on this below.)
  • Recovery : In this portion, the business must identify and implement steps to recover critical business functions.
  • Organization : A continuity team must be created. This team will devise a plan to manage the disruption.
  • Training : The continuity team must be trained and tested. Members of the team should also complete exercises that go over the plan and strategies.

Companies may also find it useful to come up with a checklist that includes key details such as emergency contact information, a list of resources the continuity team may need, where backup data and other required information are housed or stored, and other important personnel.

Along with testing the continuity team, the company should also test the BCP itself. It should be tested several times to ensure it can be applied to many different risk scenarios . This will help identify any weaknesses in the plan which can then be identified and corrected.

In order for a business continuity plan to be successful, all employees—even those who aren't on the continuity team—must be aware of the plan.

Business Continuity Impact Analysis

An important part of developing a BCP is a business continuity impact analysis. It identifies the effects of disruption of business functions and processes. It also uses the information to make decisions about recovery priorities and strategies.

FEMA provides an operational and financial impact worksheet to help run a business continuity analysis. The worksheet should be completed by business function and process managers who are well acquainted with the business. These worksheets will summarize the following:

  • The impacts—both financial and operational—that stem from the loss of individual business functions and process
  • Identifying when the loss of a function or process would result in the identified business impacts

Completing the analysis can help companies identify and prioritize the processes that have the most impact on the business's financial and operational functions. The point at which they must be recovered is generally known as the “recovery time objective.”

Business Continuity Plan vs. Disaster Recovery Plan

BCPs and disaster recovery plans are similar in nature, the latter focuses on technology and information technology (IT) infrastructure. BCPs are more encompassing—focusing on the entire organization, such as customer service and supply chain. 

BCPs focus on reducing overall costs or losses, while disaster recovery plans look only at technology downtimes and related costs. Disaster recovery plans tend to involve only IT personnel—which create and manage the policy. However, BCPs tend to have more personnel trained on the potential processes. 

Why Is Business Continuity Plan (BCP) Important?

Businesses are prone to a host of disasters that vary in degree from minor to catastrophic and business continuity plans (BCPs) are an important part of any business. BCP is typically meant to help a company continue operating in the event of threats and disruptions. This could result in a loss of revenue and higher costs, which leads to a drop in profitability. And businesses can't rely on insurance alone because it doesn't cover all the costs and the customers who move to the competition.

What Should a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) Include?

Business continuity plans involve identifying any and all risks that can affect the company's operations. The plan should also determine how those risks will affect operations and implement safeguards and procedures to mitigate the risks. There should also be testing procedures to ensure these safeguards and procedures work. Finally, there should be a review process to make sure that the plan is up to date.

What Is Business Continuity Impact Analysis?

An important part of developing a BCP is a business continuity impact analysis which identifies the effects of disruption of business functions and processes. It also uses the information to make decisions about recovery priorities and strategies.

FEMA provides an operational and financial impact worksheet to help run a business continuity analysis.

These worksheets summarize the impacts—both financial and operational—that stem from the loss of individual business functions and processes. They also identify when the loss of a function or process would result in the identified business impacts.

Business continuity plans (BCPs) are created to help speed up the recovery of an organization filling a threat or disaster. The plan puts in place mechanisms and functions to allow personnel and assets to minimize company downtime. BCPs cover all organizational risks should a disaster happen, such as flood or fire.  

Federal Emergency Management Agency. " Business Process Analysis and Business Impact Analysis User Guide ," Pages 15 - 17. Accessed Sept. 5, 2021.

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Business Continuity Plan Template for Investment Banking Firms

Business Continuity Plan Template for Investment Banking Firms

What is a Business Continuity Plan for Investment Banking Firms?

A Business Continuity Plan (BCP) for Investment Banking Firms is a comprehensive plan that outlines how the organization should respond to and manage any unexpected events or crises that could disrupt its normal business operations. The plan typically includes steps such as risk assessment and analysis, the development of strategies and protocols, and the implementation of related projects to ensure the continuity of investment operations, trading activities, and client services during such disruptions.

What's included in this Business Continuity Plan for Investment Banking Firms template?

  • 3 focus areas
  • 6 objectives

Each focus area has its own objectives, projects, and KPIs to ensure that the strategy is comprehensive and effective.

Who is the Business Continuity Plan for Investment Banking Firms template for?

The Business Continuity Plan for Investment Banking Firms template is designed for financial institutions to develop their own business continuity plans. It includes a strategic plan template that outlines the focus areas, objectives, projects, and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that can be used to measure the success of the plan.

1. Define clear examples of your focus areas

Focus areas are the overarching categories of the business continuity plan. Examples of focus areas for investment banking firms could include ensuring business continuity, data security, and regulatory compliance. Each focus area should have its own set of objectives, projects, and KPIs.

2. Think about the objectives that could fall under that focus area

Objectives are the goals that your organization wants to achieve within each focus area. Specifically, objectives should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound). Examples of objectives could include developing a continuity plan, maintaining/updating the plan, developing security protocols, and maintaining/updating the protocols.

3. Set measurable targets (KPIs) to tackle the objective

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are specific, measurable targets that can be used to measure progress towards a particular objective. KPIs should be measurable, so that progress can be tracked and reported on. Examples of KPIs could include implementing a BCP, updating the BCP, implementing protocols, and updating protocols.

4. Implement related projects to achieve the KPIs

Projects are the specific actions or activities that are designed to help achieve each of the objectives. Examples of projects could include developing a comprehensive BCP, regularly reviewing and updating the BCP, developing comprehensive security protocols, and regularly reviewing and updating the security protocols

5. Utilize Cascade Strategy Execution Platform to see faster results from your strategy

Cascade Strategy Execution Platform is an all-in-one platform that helps organizations develop, execute, and track their business continuity plans. It provides powerful analytics to measure performance and track progress. With Cascade, organizations can quickly and easily develop, implement, and monitor their business continuity plans for faster results.

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