COVID-19: Central Bank Statement on Essential Services
Irish financial services firms will be aware of the fact that banking and financial services are considered essential services during the COVID-19 pandemic under guidance published by the Department of the Taoiseach on 28 March 2020.
The Central Bank of Ireland (the Central Bank) issued a statement on 31 March 2020 outlining the expectations of financial services firms at this time. The statement refers to the CEO or other senior managers being accountable for ensuring there is an adequate process so that only individuals performing roles that are necessary to perform essential financial services, who cannot work remotely, are designated as essential workers. This will ensure that the purpose of the public health measures is not defeated by firms relying on the government's broad designation of financial services as essential.
The Central Bank recognises that firms are now operating pursuant to their business continuity plans and that there are complex interconnections between firms, markets, outsource providers and key staff. The expectation is that boards and senior management actively monitor developments in the pandemic in order to ensure continuity of service and to respond to the changing public health requirements as the pandemic evolves.
The Central Bank has provided some, non-exhaustive, guidance on what boards should be considering at this time:
- Reviewing business continuity plans to ensure they keep pace with the evolving situation
- Reviewing staff capabilities and their designation as essential workers, so as to be able to rotate or replace essential staff
- Engagement with critical services providers, contractors and other services to ensure business continuity and to ensure that such staff are designated as essential workers
- Cooperating with other firms in order to ensure continuity of essential consumer services in a sector or region
Reporting to the Central Bank as soon as possible, where circumstances present a risk to the maintenance of services to consumers, industry or markets. Financial services firms will welcome this guidance from the regulator. Firms should also review carefully their technological capabilities and other remote-working enablers to ensure appropriate designations for staff, bearing in mind the expectation of other regulators such as ESMA that firms should put necessary technology in place as soon as possible to enable staff to record relevant telephone conversations. Outsourcing arrangements should also be scrutinised during the board's consideration of the business continuity plan.
Our lawyers are helping clients respond to the range of legal issues now impacting their business. Firms should be mindful of emerging legal risks as they look to maintain continuity of services both from third party service providers and to clients as well as maintaining compliance with existing and emerging regulatory requirements at this time.
For more information please contact any member of A&L Goodbody's Financial Regulation team.
Date published: 1 April 2020