ANZ Banking Group temporarily recast its data operations in Chengdu as an extension of its internal IT service desk and made additional “significant changes” to systems capacity to continue to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The bank, which was one of the first large Australian corporates to highlight capacity issues in the transition to mostly remote operations, has now provided a more detailed view of how its Technology organisation handled the transition.
Group executive for Technology Gerard Florian wrote on ANZ’s BlueNotes blog that the pandemic had “put enormous pressures on our internal service desks, which are based in Manila and India.”
“The huge volumes of enquiries required new solutions including increased use of chat functions,” Florian said.
“Our first challenge as far as contact centres was in Manila. However, our Chengdu team, who were locked down much earlier, were able to go back to work.
“They're all data people - they're not traditionally a contact centre or tech support. But they stopped doing what they were doing and quickly trained up as service desk assistance to help our staff.
“They became an extension of our service desk.”
Florian said the past two months had stretched software and infrastructure, as well as the Technology team itself, to the limit.
While ANZ - like others - had some existing capabilities allowing people to work flexibly, “we had never before asked such a large percentage of our staff to all work from home at the same time.”
“We essentially had to double our capacity,” Florian said.
“There are some purely practical challenges in moving people out.
“We had to ensure we had the appropriate software licences – for example for the system we have to allow our people to access emails on their mobile phones. We didn’t initially have the capacity to offer that to everyone who needed it.
“We needed to assess the internet bandwidth into our data centre – that too had to be increased by 400 percent.”
Significant work also had to be undertaken on the security front, both in allowing cyber security operations to function remotely and finding new ways to operate within the boundaries of security policies.
The bank runs cyber security operations centres in Melbourne and Manila.
Working from home in Manila “was an issue as many people did not have internet at home,” Florian noted. “Our team solved this by purchasing prepaid modems.”
Additionally, “there is a whole spectrum of platforms out there with different levels of security.”
“We had to assess security issues – what communication needed to be on our system and what could be done via external systems because the security imperative was lower?”
Florian said that staff seconded into areas of need across the bank required access to systems as well as new security permissions.
“Across the bank, we've got a lot of people playing out of position,” he said.
“People who are branch staff who might be helping with some of the authorised printing of sensitive documents, for example.”
Florian said the Technology team had come together to deal with the challenges, enabling sizable tasks to be completed relatively quickly.
“We needed to move a number of people, for example, from one of our contact centres,” Florian said.
“One hundred people from tech came together to move those people in one evening to manage the risk.”
Florian said that he - together with deputy chief executive Alexis George, Kathryn van der Merwe from Talent & Culture, “Risk, and other key functions in ANZ” - is working to understand what the bank will look like in the future, and the role Technology will play.
“Our platform must be robust and resilient enough to protect the bank; it is fundamental to us being able to adapt; it is the vehicle for our communication; and it must underpin what inevitably is going to be a very different operating model in the new world after the virus,” he said.