Embrace technology to be prepared for the next crisis

John Dobson

May 7, 2020

John Dobson SmartSearch

John Dobson is CEO of SmartSearch

There are no two ways about it: life has changed for good for most people. Even if, through the combined endeavours and ingenuity of the scientific community, a vaccine is successfully developed or an effective treatment devised for COVID-19, this will be useless should the virus mutate or a whole new disease emerge.

We have had a prolonged period without a pandemic of the sort we are witnessing now, but that is no guarantee that a similar length of time will pass before the next one.

One of the big things that will have to change is the way businesses plan for contingencies. In the past, there has been a tendency to think of this in terms of individual firms or discrete sectors of the economy. COVID-19 has shown that this is no longer adequate.

It seems unlikely in any case that we will all just return to previous patterns of work. Even before COVID-19 arrived on these shores, there was a strong trend emerging away from large numbers of people needing to be present in the same place, and travelling to do so.

The experience of working remotely, and of adapting to that, is likely to accelerate this trend and, for traditionally office-based jobs make it irreversible.

Why would businesses go to the trouble and expense of maintaining large office premises at ‘desireable’ addresses when they can just as easily operate remotely? And why would hard-working professionals struggling to maintain a healthy work-life balance go back to spending hours each day in some cases, going from A to B and back again?

Even if we do just snap back into the daily commute, there will need to be serious thought given as to how ‘business as usual’ can continue in the event that this is not possible for any significant period.

This doesn’t need to be difficult: technology exists that means most back-office functions can easily be carried remotely anyway and also enables them to be performed more efficiently.

We have been able to help a number of businesses in recent weeks by shifting their Know Your Customer (KYC) and anti-money-laundering (AML) processes to a digital platform that enables them to onboard customers remotely, with no need for physical documents – ID and proof of address, for example – to change hands.

And we are now also providing a facial recognition feature so clients can check photo ID remotely too, with no face-to-face interaction required.

Businesses need to be embracing technology and taking their processes online – not simply to respond to this crisis, but so that they are better able to handle the next one.

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