Staying Connected Amid COVID-19

By Joel Williquette 

Joel WilliquetteCrisis response is not a new concept for community banks that have weathered economic recessions, natural and man-made disasters, and previous pandemics — all of which presented unique challenges that tested the industry’s resiliency and provided valuable lessons.

COVID-19 is no exception, and while we are still in the midst of this worldwide pandemic, key takeaways about the use of technology to keep employees safe and connected, have begun to emerge.

Teleworking Benefits & Drawbacks

Community banks have employed work from home policies like never before, with 50 percent or more of bank employees teleworking.

Telework polices do more than keep employees plugged in from a distance. It expands the candidate pool for potential new hires beyond the bank’s geographic footprint to help them grow and optimize their businesses. Telework options also provide greater flexibility for community bank employees to help offset long commutes while enhancing work/life balance.

There are certainly best practices when it comes to telework, especially regarding technology during a time of increased fraud related to COVID-19. Here are a few suggestions to keep in mind as members of your team plug in remotely.

  1. Now that the rush to get employees set up remotely is over, be sure to have your IT department complete risk assessments (if you have not done so already) and reassess your virtual private network, remote access, cloud, and collaboration tool security configurations for robust security.

  2. Video collaboration tools are great communication vehicles. Ensure employees are properly trained in their use and that proper information security practices are in place to protect sensitive information.

  3. Help employees remain vigilant to protect against COVID-19 related cyber threats. Provide periodic cyber and security training to reinforce good security practices

  4. Check ICBA’s resource page, which includes resources from the government and private sector as well as ICBA training offerings.

  5. Consider bringing in a third party security vendor to review your institution’s security and produce an IT Audit document, which can be used internally and for IT exams to show the precautions you’ve taken  in the deployment of work-from-home technologies.


ICBA has created a pandemic return to the office guide to help community banks develop, implement, and communicate workplace flexibilities and protections as they gear up to reopen or expand in-branch services.

As community banks gather their employees and assess what has changed—some of which may not be known for months to come—the valuable lessons learned since the crisis began will help them shore up their systems and process and further prepare for future unexpected challenges that may come.  

Joel Williquette is ICBA senior vice president of operational risk policy.