Sibos 2020: Taking the Pulse on Pandemic Response

Banking And Financial Messaging


Germaine Lang

Oct 7, 2020

The Sibos 2020 event was like no other. With the pandemic disrupting business activities worldwide, the event went fully virtual for the first time and still managed to deliver the exceptional and engaging experience it’s known for. The program drove industry discussion on timely topics and trends, becoming an example of an underlying conference thread, turning disruption into opportunity.

In the session, Managing a Pandemic: How did the industry cope with major workforce disruption? Catriona Wallace, CEO of Ethical Advisory, served as the moderator for a discussion between Clair Calmejane, CIO Societe Generale, and Greg Keeley, EVP and CIO of TD Bank. The panelists provided a rounded view of how a European-based and a US-based organization navigated the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their respective businesses – which had many similarities. Wallace focused the discussion on three main areas – business continuity, leadership and technology – and how Societe Generale and TD Bank responded to the disruption.

Business Continuity

With both organizations having a presence in Asia they had forewarning of the way the pandemic was dramatically affecting business operations. Even still, although they had business continuity plans in place for multiple scenarios, none of them addressed a massive and almost immediate shift to a remote work model. Facing this migration and having to support countless workspaces, it was imperative that those business continuity playbooks were studied, and new plans quickly developed to address this specific circumstance.

This meant finding a way to keep employees and customers safe while maintaining business operations and serving their customers. For TD, with 90,000 employees going remote simultaneously, they made the decision to stop all change initiatives and pivot efforts to set the infrastructure in place to manage the new work from home (WFH) model. Keeley noted that they started early because they always strive to ‘be one of the first pieces of sand through the hourglass’.

For Societe Generale, which moved its nearly 150,000 employees in waves, this also meant finding a way to protect clients and employees during in-person scenarios – from individuals to large corporations that were also in the middle of handling their own crises. Calmejane said that Societe Generale was also able to make strides in digital payments during the pandemic and believes ‘digital is the core of the rebound plan…and that innovation is heart of the community of tomorrow.’


When discussing what new leadership behavior might come out of the pandemic, Wallace cited that it will be imperative that leaders use technology to predict, prepare and protect not just the business, but its people, the environment and resources.

In this vein, it was finding a new way to do things in the new landscape that led Societe Generale to flatten the organization in order to shorten decision making. With managers working with employees across the board, they had access to information faster to keep the business moving.

Keeley said that at the advent of COVID-19 TD Bank set up a ‘fusion’ environment for leaders to examine predictive analytics and respond in real time to the changing disruption. They started using daily stand-ups and a team-based approach as ways to stay focused on protecting employees, customers and the community.


Globally there has been a 19% increase in artificial intelligence this quarter over the previous quarter, which Wallace said makes AI the fastest growing tech sector. She asked how organizations can ensure—as it becomes more commonplace and is used in more application scenarios—that AI is used responsibly. She mentioned the 8 core principles of responsible AI:

  1. Must be designed for and not come at a cost to humans, the society and environment
  2. Must be built with human-centered values in mind
  3. Must be fair and not discriminate
  4. Must adhere to privacy and security regulation requirements
  5. Must be reliable and safe
  6. If a bank makes a decision based on AI and a customer thinks it’s unjust, s/he can contest it
  7. Bank must be transparent and explainable
  8. Bank and AI vendor must be held accountable

AI officers are key to managing the use of AI, particularly when the last three principles are in play. Keeley notes that the benefits of incorporating AI into business processes are enormous to society as a whole, and that removing barriers to acceptance is essential.

This session made it clear that while the pandemic may have struck a blow to our usual way of interacting in both our professional and personal lives, the conversation and innovation have been continuing in spite of disruption. In closing, the panelists agree that flexibility, adaptation and finding new ways to leverage data will be critical to getting through the crisis at hand.


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Germaine Lang

Germaine Lang is the Managing Editor of SmartPayments with a strong creative and technical writing background across many industries. She also works to engage customers and relate their experiences with vendor products and services, positioning them as innovative thought leaders.
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