Bird flu planning takes flight

The finance sector is taking the threat of Avian (bird) flu very seriously.

Business continuity and disaster planning might seem hypothetical at times, but the finance sector is taking the threat of Avian (bird) flu, which has claimed many lives in Asia, very seriously.

A couple of months ago I heard the Commonwealth Bank's executive manager, group business continuity management, Robert Brigden-Jones address a seminar on disaster recovery.

Though I only touched on it at the time, Brigden-Jones mentioned moves afoot by the finance sector in Sydney to jointly develop business continuity plans for Avian (bird) flu.

The seriousness with which the finance sector is treating the issue came to light again at the recent Banktech conference in Sydney.

The Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority's (APRA) head of operational risk, Harvey Crapp, told attendees about industry-wide planning for Avian flu by a joint working group including APRA, the Reserve Bank and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.

APRA was to release a discussion paper on its members' readiness for Avian flu in the near future, he said.

However when I phoned the APRA employee responsible for the paper, I was told it may not even be released. The organisation didn't want to promise anything, I was told.

She did say, however, APRA was finding major finance institutions to be taking the bird flu threat "very seriously".

The sort of disaster planning we're talking about was illustrated by Todd Chappell, business continuity manager for Westpac, who presented a thorough business continuity framework. He showed how Citrix and IP telephony could benefit disaster recovery planning, without ever clearly saying Westpac were using them, or whether it was in response to the bird flu threat.

The finance institutions seem to be investing serious money into ensuring staff can work remotely should bird flu become reality in Australia. However, because of security sensitiveness, few wish to talk about it openly.

What have you heard?

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