4C Strategies>Case Studies>WISE 23 – Delivering one of the largest industry exercises ever
Incident & Crisis Management, Training & Exercise Management (Civilian)

WISE 23 – Delivering one of the largest industry exercises ever

WISE 2023 exercise control room participants

42 of the world’s largest banks. 1000’s of participants. 500+ injects.

The challenge: Find a way to collectively measure, evaluate and strengthen the crisis preparedness and overall resilience of the entire Hong Kong financial services sector in a way that utilises the industry’s 3 key regulators and gives participants an idea of their overall capability.

The solution: A 7 month-project involving crisis management training for senior executives, culminating in a simulated exercise for 42 of the world’s largest banks. Utilize a plausible industry-wide crisis scenario that puts entire crisis teams, including senior leadership and communications teams, to the test. House all of this work within an integrated, immersive and auditable platform; Exonaut.

The results: One of the largest simulated exercises of its kind. 1000’s of participants all collaborating at one time within Exonaut, bringing together senior leaders, communications teams, regulators, policymakers and BCM experts in hub. An industry-wide post-exercise report reveals the overall resilience of the sector and benchmarks individual organizations against this.

Watch the full WISE Video Case Study

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Strengthening resilience of the world’s Financial Services leaders

Hong Kong is renowned the world over as a major center of finance. As one of the leading global hubs, the resilience of its financial services industry is critically important to the region’s economy.

“The greatest threat to Financial Services firms is a severe, multi-faceted crisis. Building resilience and capability with industry-wide exercises like this is one of the most powerful tools we have for facing an uncertain future and ensuring the continued success of our industry.”

Hozefa Badri, Head of Business Continuity & Incident Management (BCIM) - HSBC, Hong Kong & Macau

At a time when both the severity and frequency of crises is rising, WISE 2023 represented a timely, necessary opportunity to collectively raise the crisis preparedness of Hong Kong’s most important industry.

Planning & preparation

WISE 2023 involved 7+ months of planning culminating in a single 3-hour simulated exercise involving 1000’s of players in November 2023.

With 42 participant organisations – each with their own plans, procedures and regulatory deliverables – how do you prepare a simulated exercise that puts each and every participant to the test?

Planning began alongside the Hong Kong Financial Services Business Continuity Management (HKFSBCM) Board to establish the core components of the exercise requirements and develop objectives and the scenario at the highest level. Tasked with constructing a simulated exercise that tests all participating organizations, two immediate challenges arose:

  • Establishing a plausible, testing scenario that affects 42 different organizations equally
  • Logistically planning for 1000s of professionals to engage in an exercise, at the same time and cohesively gather all information, injects, and exercise material in one source

Breaking new ground with Operational Resilience

WISE 2023 was a first on two fronts:

  • First, the delivery of an industry-wide benchmarking model to be delivered in the post exercise report, the Crisis Management Capability Maturity Model (CMCMM).
  • Second, to include Operational Resilience outcomes within the scope of an exercise of this size and breadth.

Industry-wide capability maturity

Made possible by 4C Strategies’ proprietary 10 Functions of Crisis Management framework coupled with data provided by each organization’s BCM leads, the CMCMM gives organisations a tool by which to measure the maturity of their capability against the sector as whole. Each organization gains a snapshot of where their current Crisis Management capability lies in relation to their peers, and offers structured guidance on improvement.

This is something that has not been attempted before and will provide a legacy of WISE for participant organisations to take forward as they build out their capabilities in the future.

Operational Resilience

WISE 2023 was also the first time that Operational Resilience has been included in the scope of an exercise of this scale. Working in tandem with Hong Kong’s financial regulators, Operational Resilience outcomes were built into the exercise objectives and post-exercise report, and firms were strongly encouraged by regulators and the HKFSBCM to take on these additional requirements.

To accommodate firms that wished to exercise their Operational Resilience capability during the exercise, 4C prepared plausible scenarios that allowed firms to understand their RTOs and tolerances prior to exercise delivery in November.

To capture this requirement within the bounds of a three-hour exercise window was made possible by two factors: The first relied on adequate preparation by those organizations with the capacity to bring Operational Resilience factors into their exercise objectives; and the second was to capture all scenario injects, observations and media to bring the exercise to life – Exonaut.

“The HKMA attaches great importance to strengthening the operational resilience of the banking sector. Through active participation in WISE, both the banks and ourselves have gained useful insights into the areas in our operational resilience framework requiring improvement.”

Raymond Chan, Executive Director Banking Supervision - Hong Kong Monetary Authority

Exonaut is 4C Strategies’ proprietary Training and Exercise Management platform, refined over 20 years of use with militaries and global enterprises around the world. In WISE 2023, it offered a portal for Players, Evaluators and Scenario Leads to manage, access and create exercise content, including pseudo media, observations and injects.

Exonaut allowed an unparalleled level of command and control by exercise directors, granting the ability to see the scenario injects listed on dashboards and timeline views before they are sent on by scenario leads.

Exonaut was deployed in conjunction with the three key roles fielded by the participating organisations:

The Scenario leads, responsible for the development and release of scenario injects.

The Evaluation leads, a key role whose responsibility was capturing observations against the exercise objectives.

The Facilitator, the role that ensures the success of the exercise within exercising firms and the single point of contact for all communications.

Achieving a fully immersive experience for 1000’s of players

Many participating organizations elected to exercise their crisis communications team during WISE 2023. To bring the full realities of a sector-wide crisis into the experience, 4C integrated a social media simulator and psuedo-media content into the Exonaut player portal for the duration of the exercise.

This provided an immersive platform that simulated the response to the scenario from both the media and general public. In combination, these additional layers of synthetic reality helped test crisis communications speed and ability to act during a multi-faceted crisis, drafting press releases, response announcements and replying to questions and complaints from the public.

Raising preparedness with organizations & leaders

Take up for the exercise was high amongst the members of the HKFSBCM community. To add to the authenticity of the exercise and to provide regulatory guidance, the WISE 2023 exercise saw the three industry regulators play for the first time ever. As with all exercises of this scale, they aren’t possible without buy-in across the board.

To address these challenges and tackle the sheer scale of WISE 2023, project delivery was broken down into three in-person sprint weeks. These weeks were instrumental, conducted through a series of workshops and briefings in which the 4C methodology of running an exercise was introduced: Design, Develop, Deliver and Evaluate.

These sprint weeks enabled 4C Strategies to engage with the foremost experts for BCM and Operational Resilience in the sector in Hong Kong. These weeks and the feedback from firms’ BCM leads fed into evaluation techniques training and C-Suite level Crisis Management training workshops, a useful means to meaningfully engage with a typically time poor audience. This helped fill in any knowledge gaps and collectively raise the awareness and capability of participant firms to focus on skill sets often lost in the relentless churn of BAU.

More to come

There is much more to come yet on WISE 2023, with post-exercise lessons, a documentary offering behind-the-scenes access, and a full sector-wide capability maturity benchmarking report. Achieved already and perhaps most importantly, though, is the continued promotion of BCM across the wider Hong Kong Financial Services sector.

Keep your eye on this page or 4C Strategies’ social media feeds to know when the documentary is released!

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