Small CU Is Able To Build Complete Recovery Plan In Just 1 Weekend

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Even without a disaster recovery unit, one $21-million credit union here has had a "complete" disaster recovery plan for about a year, according to Lynn Wagner, CEO at United Shoreline FCU.

An online business continuity planning tool called PLANet, hosted by King of Prussia, Penn.-based Strohl Systems, took Wagner through the process of building a plan online one weekend at home last year.

"With PLANet, I couldn't miss a step," Wagner explained. "The database offered even more than what we could use and included examples. We were forced to classify each type of disaster and what we are going to do in each disaster."

PLANet won the CUNA Technology Council's Best of Show award at the 2003 Future Forum in Reno, Nev. last month.

The eight-employee CU wrote contingencies for a range of disasters and timeframes. "We planned for everything from a natural disaster, to whether we are down for an hour versus a day, and from the lights going out to not being able to access the building," Wagner added.

United Shoreline also centralized and stored mission-critical software off-site, she said. "Nobody knew who had what software installed and on which computers. The lending officer would load a mortgage program on one PC and then keep the disc in the drawer."

Employees and board members also discussed who would be assigned to various disaster recovery committees and tasks.

The CU's goal is to be "up and running within 24 hours" after an incident, Wagner said. At that point, United Shoreline's 6,000 members should then be able to get account balances and perform transactions.

United Shoreline's business continuity plan will soon be put to the test, said Wagner. By year's end, United Shoreline will close down its main branch for one day and operate off-site, 20 miles away at its second branch. "We'll take our plan and go from the least likely and the worst-case scenario.

"With the first test we'll run into snags, and then we'll make changes," she continued. PLANet's 50 standard reports will reveal which business processes are still vulnerable at the CU, which offers a full-service menu including mortgage loans and online banking.

Because the plan is offered on an application service provider basis, Wagner can access and update the plan from any Internet connection.

The CU's previous disaster plan never fully ripened, Wagner said. "We never had anything formal. We had various software packages we were attempting to use that contained generic Word documents and weren't as user-friendly."

Every year, the NCUA would call United Shoreline on its missing disaster plan.

"But there will be nothing in the NCUA report this year," Wagner said.

Business continuity is a daunting concept for a full-service, small CU, said Wagner. "Larger institutions may have their own disaster recovery departments and more manpower, and they're going to be more prepared. They would also have the capability of recovering faster and better.

"Here, business continuity is me," she said.

In fact, Wagner thinks that more than half of credit unions in United Shoreline's peer group are ill-prepared for business resumption. "But I feel that, if anything happened, the larger CUs would help."

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