How Superstorm Sandy Brought Disaster Recovery Home for Capital One

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When Sandy, the hurricane/coastal storm hybrid, hit the northeast last week, it gave business continuity plans of companies of all sizes a jolt. Even the New York Stock Exchange’s trading floor was out of commission for two days, the longest weather delay for the exchange in 124 years.

The superstorm was the first real test of how mobile remote deposit capture can act as a double edged sword during a disaster — it can enhance business continuity and cause hassles at the same time. For Colleen Taylor, executive vice president and head of treasury management and enterprise payments at Capital One Financial (COF), the storm revealed that effective response and recovery actually has one foot on the frontier and one in the past. It’s helpful to have both a smartphone and paper handy.

Taylor is responsible for sales, customer service, product management  and risk management associated with Capital One’s cash management and commercial card offerings. She also has responsibility for enterprise payments, which includes strategy and risk management for commercial and consumer payments. She spoke with BTN by phone on Tuesday about Sandy, mobile remote deposit capture, floods, Brooklyn, and the unusual way in which Capital One was able to help a school district at the height of the storm.

BTN: What kinds of new technology have you rolled out in the past year?
Taylor: We have piloted mobile remote deposit capture as a complimentary service to our core remote deposit capture service. For commercial clients, mobile RDC is a bit different than for consumer clients. Where consumers take pictures of one or two checks, commercial clients may want to do upwards of 30 or 40 checks.
 
How is the tech adjusted for that?
We have increased security in place, so the commercial clients can feel more safe in capturing lots of checks. The user still has to take pictures of the checks, but can aggregate checks into batches for transmission.
 
What is the use case for mobile RDC for businesses?
There may be a real estate company that is collecting checks and we want that to be an efficient process. It’s a smaller number of checks [than a larger business], so a scanner isn’t efficient, but the business still wants to do it as quickly as possible. We have adjusted the workflow to work faster for a larger number of checks.

How does mobile RDC impact business continuity?
Mobile technology like RDC is an enabler of continuity, it allows for a broader business continuity plan. If a customer can't get into an office, they can use a mobile device instead of a scanner. But a smartphone [eventually runs out of battery life and] requires power. If you are thinking about mobile as a backup to the office, you need to have  backup to the mobile device. These types of storms, like Sandy, can really result in unintended consequences.

That suggests a third layer is necessary — a backup for the backup. How does that work?
We educate our customers about business continuity planning. We saw effective plans in terms of people working from home, and at the same time we saw customers that were impacted by floods and outages. The strategy can get "old fashioned" then, you need to have paper around. It’s helpful to have a sheet of paper with a list of different ways to contact the bank to figure out a way to get checks deposited and to make payroll, things of that nature.

How was Capital One impacted by the storm?
We have a significant footprint in the Northeast; we have about 350 branches in the tri-state area. We were able to support customers with our online banking platform, which stayed up and running; and we were able to move employees around to centers that weren’t impacted by the storm.
 
Did having technology located in geographically diverse regions help?
Our data center happened to not be in the New York area. All big banks have a geographic backup plan, and for us we had a pretty good experience with keeping our call center and online banking up.

How did you reach out to customers?
In the storm zones, we changed hours where appropriate and communicated to customers digitally that we had gone into full  business continuity mode.

How did mobile RDC work during the storm?
We’re still early in the game in terms of understanding how mobile played in this particular disaster. I do know that on both the consumer and business side we had lots of customers accessing online banking via mobile devices. But we also saw activity on PCs and traditional [phone] access. There are people who, when feeling particularly stressed or in a dire situation, revert [to more traditional communication channels].

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