On March 24, the Government of India ordered a nationwide lockdown for 21 days restricting the movement of the entire population of India as a preventive measure against the coronavirus pandemic. Due to the lockdown, most people, except those whose jobs are classified under the essential services category, are barred from stepping outside.
The government has classified financial services in the essential services category. Despite this, financial organisations have developed Business Continuity Plans (BCP) to let as many employees as possible work from home. Banks and other RBI regulated entities like standalone primary dealers, CCIL, payment system operators, and financial market participants operating in RBI regulated markets were exempt from the lockdown.
Of the millions confined to their homes, a considerable number have no difficulty working. They are working from home because there is ample digital infrastructure to support them. Professionals in marketing and HR have hit the ground running even when they were abruptly told to work from home. It is easy for managers coordinating with the employees in these functional areas owing to the existing physical/digital
How work from home is impacting workers in different work domains and the challenges faced by each segment are mentioned below:
Customer service professionals are making compromises because they cannot serve clients face to face. The digital infrastructure in place needs to be aligned at either end i.e. the employee and the client for smooth functioning. Another problem is that existing digital infrastructure makes it impossible to meet several regulatory compliances.
For IT professionals to work from home, it is important they are able to connect to their office servers from remote locations. The internet connectivity they have at home should be as reliable as that present in their offices. Fast and secure internet is common in urban areas. A challenge IT worker face when working from home is that security on home-based networks seldom equals that of the system found in offices.
Sales professionals who used to travel door to door in order to sell products and services cannot work from home. Businesses that relied on door to door selling are using existing data to reach customers. They are calling customers by phone or sending them messages using WhatsApp. As a part of their Business Continuity Plan, several businesses have deployed tools that help monitor their employees’ progress while they work from home.
Other challenges being faced by the financial sector are as follows:
Certain essential functions in the financial services sector must be delivered on-site. Hence, employees who attempt providing these services by stepping out of their house put themselves at risk.
Another challenge faced by the financial services industry is that cash is still the primary means of payment. Managing ATMs and maintaining them cannot be done from home. Cash logistics is another challenge because replenishing ATMs with cash requires the employees to be present onsite. Despite these hurdles, organisations & teams have coped up very well during this lockdown period by ensuring continuity of service & cash across India.
Security is also a concern. The finance industry, by its nature, stores valuable information about clients. While such data is secure in an office, when it is accessed at home, the chance that it might fall into the wrong hands increases significantly. Most home-based networks are not as secure as those in offices; hence data stored on home computers has a higher likelihood of falling into the hands of cybercriminals. Furthermore, data stored at home is vulnerable because visitors or family members may find and misuse it. This is a severe challenge.
Another challenge faced by the financial services industry is that social distancing measures have made it extremely difficult for Feet On Street (FOS) to attract new merchants. Also, other critica
The absence of face to face meetings is also a challenge. The financial services industry is based on trust. Because finance service professionals handle customers’ assets and capital, they need to establish trust with clients. It is challenging to build trust without meeting face to face. Yes, virtual meetings happen regularly in the financial services industry. Still, they don’t help professionals earn trust the way face to face meetings do.
Client meetings at home are neither recommended nor appropriate. For financial services professionals, meeting clients at home does not help bridge the trust deficit that arises when face to face meetings in offices are impossible. The consensus view is that a house is not an environment where professionals strike deals.
While employees have often worked from home in the past, companies as a whole are still adapting to this new mandate since the lockdown announcement. Companies need to become better prepared to execute Business Continuity Plans during emergencies. The infrastructure necessary for BCPs needs to be put in place.
Employees need to be oriented to work from home. At the same time, employers also need to trust their employees that they will work with the same efficiency from home as they do in the office and have confidence that the data shared with them will remain secure.
Work from home is an ideal solution when there is a lockdown. With a work from home infrastructure in place, the nation’s economy is not adversely affected, and citizens’ health is not compromised. Learning from the present situation, Indian organisations will be ready for such eventualities in the future. This will lead to the creation of a better infrastructure which will, in turn, make working from home more manageable for many more people in the near future.
The way the digital ecosystem has advanced in India, many financial services can be done online without the need to visit the bank branch, the office of an insurance company or a mutual fund house. Workers and professionals in India are highly skilled, motivated and ambitious to succeed. Given the fast-growing digital transformation in the public and private sector, the businesses are expected to run without much hindrance and interruption even in difficult times such as these.
Views expressed in this article are the personal opinion of Sunil Khosla, Head – Digital Business, India Transact Technologies Ltd.