Ed Parrish was first introduced to hurricane recovery efforts at the age of eight when Hurricane Eloise hit Panama City. He recalls riding in a boat with his father down Harrison Street to check on the federal building where his father worked. Parrish now serves as treasury manager at TIAA Bank, formerly EverBank, where he is responsible for the funds transfer team. Throughout his career, Parrish has developed multiple business continuity plans to support the bank’s resiliency. When Hurricane Irma hit Florida on September 10, 2017, Parrish put these plans into action.

As the banking arm within the TIAA family of companies, TIAA Bank (Off-site) offers a variety of solutions to keep clients’ money working, including high-yield bank accounts and nationwide home lending. TIAA Bank has over $33 billion in assets as of March 31, 2018, and is headquartered in Jacksonville, Florida. TIAA Bank serves its clients nationwide through a variety of channels, including online, its Florida-based financial centers and at other business offices throughout the country.

FedLine® Solutions setup

TIAA Bank utilizes the FedLine Direct® Solution to access Federal Reserve Bank Services critical payment and information services and applications. To support geographic diversity, the bank has dual circuit and router connections at its primary and secondary locations. TIAA Bank also uses FedLine Advantage® for contingency purposes.

We don’t use FedLine Advantage for processing, but it’s there as another potential source for backup wire processing if our communications line is cut or commandeered. We had a situation where there was construction going on and everything got cut. With FedLine Advantage, we have a separate connection to the Fed. Even though we use our own internal wire processing system, we can connect that through FedLine Advantage. To me, part of the beauty there is redundancy.
Ed Parrish Treasury Manager
TIAA Bank

When deciding which of the FedLine Solutions to implement, TIAA Bank consulted with its account executive, Nedelka Bell. Parrish noted, “Nedelka has been fabulous. She’s always there for us. She’s one of the voices over the years that has helped guide me with some of the ideas around FedLine Direct and FedLine Advantage. It’s nice to know that we’ve got multiple ways of connecting with the Fed. Nedelka has been key with helping me appreciate that.”

Building a robust preparedness plan

After witnessing the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, TIAA Bank realized that a local business continuity plan would not be enough. While Hurricane Katrina did not impact TIAA Bank, it did serve as a wake-up call for Parrish when he reviewed an informational CD from the Federal Reserve Banks with experiences and lessons learned from Katrina. The CD spurred TIAA Bank to begin taking steps to further bolster its business continuity planning.

The Fed got my attention. They got me thinking about how we can work remotely – what sort of robust redundancies do we have in place to keep us connected. I think it’s great that the Fed continues to do this kind of information planning. If you live anywhere from Corpus Christi to New York and you work within a banking community, hurricane preparedness is something you should take seriously.
Ed Parrish Treasury Manager
TIAA Bank

When Hurricane Fay hit in 2008, it was another learning experience that led TIAA Bank to add additional resiliency layers into its planning. The bank has a category 5 hurricane building that was able to maintain great connectivity throughout the storm. However, Parrish noted, “The facility itself may work well, but surrounding elements will bring operational challenges. It’s great for use after the event but not necessarily during. There can be trouble getting fuel for generators, a lack of mail service, or bridge closures making the commute near impossible for some employees.”

Three keys to mobility

Parrish shared three key elements to his funds transfer team’s processes that help to ensure its mobility and increase its redundancy in a contingency situation.

  1. Being able to work from an alternate site
  2. Converting to paperless processes
  3. Cross-training staff

In preparation for Hurricane Irma, Parrish sent a three-person travel team from the bank’s headquarters in Jacksonville, Florida to its offices in Islandia, New York.

I knew I had a secure travel team that was away from the event. If primary connections went down, we could transfer to the secondary connection. We had everything tested and were able to go to an alternate site without an IT team. When processing about a thousand transactions a day, there’s no time to be down.
Ed Parrish Treasury Manager
TIAA Bank

Once Hurricane Irma hit Jacksonville, Parrish had his staff in Jacksonville work remotely from home. The bank’s paperless processes helped staff continue to share documents even though some team members were across the country from each other.

Throughout the day, local employees lost power and connectivity. However, Parrish felt confident in TIAA Bank’s ability to maintain resiliency with the help of its remote travel team, who was cross-trained on funds transfer processes. “By 1:30 p.m. ET the day the storm hit, the only people I had left with connectivity were the three people on the travel team. They completed all the transactions,” Parrish said. “Either one of our two teams are capable of assuming the responsibilities of the other. If the customer operations team needs support from the funds transfer team or vice versa, they could toggle responsibility.”

In the future, even though the travel team was able to get safely to its remote location, TIAA Bank plans to move staff even further in advance. “It’s important to get the team out to the alternate location well in advance of an event,” Parrish said. “Hotels will fill up faster than you think. Irma looked like it was going to be a major event, so Floridians were evacuating. It was difficult getting my team out even though I was ahead of planning because major evacuations out of south Florida got in the way.”

Much more than hurricane preparedness

TIAA Bank’s business continuity planning doesn’t just include hurricane preparedness plans. They consider a variety of situations that could possibly impede business, such as pandemic planning. “When you’re making these types of preparations, it’s not just one type of event that you’re preparing for,” Parrish said. “You’re trying to cover yourself across a cornucopia of disasters.”

Note

The Federal Reserve Banks do not sponsor or endorse any of the non-Federal Reserve Bank-related products, parties or entities discussed in this publication.