Need to Know
- According to an interview with TD Bank’s group head of innovation, technology and shared services Michael Rhodes, the organization prepared itself for the COVID-19 pandemic by looking at early warning signs and focusing on digital.
- The first sign was reports form TD’s Singapore office when traders began working remotely in early February.
- From there, the company began setting up teleworking capabilities for over 100,000 employees.
- Among some of the new digital preparations, TD has tripled its capacity for mobile deposits and modified its network to allow 80% of traders to work remotely.
- TD has ensured that there will be no COVID-19 related job losses this year.
COVID-19 has hit businesses across the globe hard, causing layoffs, furloughs, and a refocusing of what work means. Millions of people are now working from home in an effort to increase social distancing, a feat that is incredibly difficult for enterprise organizations to pull off. Migrating hundreds of thousands of workers to a secure network at home is not as simple as pushing a button.
As difficult as it may be, it helps to get a bit of advance notice. In an interview with American Banker, TD Bank’s group head of innovation, technology and shared services Michael Rhodes outlined how the massive organization was able to understand the early warning signs and prep the company to make a quick switch.
“In our Singapore locations, we recognized what was going on in early February. So that gave us a little bit of a heads-up in terms of what to expect when it came here.,” says Rhodes. “By the time social distancing happened, we had already launched efforts to significantly increase our remote access capacity.”
At any given time prior to the pandemic, TD had around 20,000 people using remote access to work from home. Within two months, TD upped that capacity to 100,000, handling all 85,000 employees (including operations and call centers) plus breathing room if they need to expand or other access issues occur.
TD had a few priorities for the switch: obviously, the safety of employees came first, then ensuring the bank has stable operations, followed by focusing on the ability to quickly and securely deliver capabilities relevant to the current environment. In the US, that might be money coming from the CARES act, and in Canada, it means CERB.
“Everything that is not in those three top priorities we’ve put a freeze on. So we freed up organizational capacity to drive towards the deliverables that really mattered given the environment we’re in,” Rhodes said.
A big focus for TD is upgrading digital platforms to handle new demand. The bank has tripled its current capacity for mobile remote deposit capture to battle the closed branches and shortened hours. TD can now handle three times as many deposits per second, but the need to stress test has not yet occurred. Due to increased volumes, the bank has also significantly upped its capacity for direct investing in Canada. War rooms that run 24/7 are watching how customers use and access their money, ready to act accordingly and offer new streamlined solutions.
“Sometimes banks have a reputation for being kind of slow in their decision-making,” says Rhodes. “We are not being slow right now. We have cross-functional teams that go to the war room, and we empower them to make a decision. If for some reason they can’t make a decision, they escalate, and we get the decision-makers to make a call that day.”
Rhodes also says that TD built new features to let traders work from home. Over 80% are now remote workers, and thanks to 140 different changes to the bank’s network, capacity has been significantly increased.
In order to handle the new changes, TD has had to make a lot of technology investments that were not planned for this year. That also means several existing projects have been moved to the backburner. In terms of AI projects, a few have been stalled, but if they are in the business requirements or coding phase, work could still continue.
“People are working really hard. I can’t thank our teams enough, and we have tens of thousands of our colleagues working from home, working long hours. We’ve done months of work in days,” says Rhodes.