Wells Fargo Incident Manager on the Keys to Business Continuity

Chris Terzich, Wells Fargo’s vice president of incident management, addresses private-sector challenges during a crisis.

by / June 11, 2012
Chris Terzich, Wells Fargo’s vice president of incident management. Photo by Joe Treleven. Joe Treleven

Chris Terzich is the vice president of incident management for Wells Fargo and chair at the Regional Consortium Coordinating Council. He is a past president of the InfraGard Minnesota Members Alliance. Terzich founded the Minnesota Information Sharing and Analysis Center to develop homeland security relationships. He has worked in a number of capacities for Wells Fargo, including executive protection and robbery training. Terzich has provided response and management for myriad events, including a visit by former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Terzich spoke with Emergency Management about the growth in public-private partnerships and the keys to business continuity.

Let’s talk about your role with Wells Fargo’s Incident Management Team.

We have two teams — one that I lead that puts together our life-safety risk management program [and] our emergency procedures. The one I lead has 20 people, and the larger team is between 80 and 100 — it varies.

What are the roles of the teams?

Our team functions like an emergency management team would within a government. The large one would be like all the people from across government in our world — that is, all the people who don’t do this job all the time. We have a small core of people who do the job all the time, and then we facilitate people because they, in their normal work, need to be at the table when something happens or when we’re planning an exercise.

What are some of the private-sector challenges when a crisis arises and how do they differ from those of the public sector?

The challenges in the private sector are very similar. In banking, we are a part of one of the 18 critical infrastructure sectors, so we’re part of that fabric of what makes the community — what keeps the businesses running, what keeps commerce going and what helps people keep the lights on.

As a critical infrastructure, we have a responsibility to be there so the community can recover quickly. When we’re working with government, the challenge is that government has the role of running the response, and the way you connect into that differs across the country. We need to be a part of our community and connect however that community is structured. That’s probably a unique challenge, unlike the government side, which says, “Here is our formal structure,” we need to connect into the communities wherever and however we can.

We used to hear that the private sector must partner with government. But we hear now that government must reach out to private-sector colleagues and ask what their needs are and how to partner with them. What are the frustrations on the private-sector side when partnering with government?

It’s improved greatly over the last 10 years. In 2003, I was a part of a working group for the National Infrastructure Advisory Council, and I remember our recommendations were so basic as to ask the government to provide a place for us to plug into this process. Now you look at everything written in the last 10 years  — whether it’s DHS or often the state and local government — it talks about the private sector.

The pitfall we need to avoid is that we need government to lead. This is a community effort, and government plays a big role, but we all play a role. The only thing we can be tripped up on is if we are waiting for government to do everything instead of being part of a community effort, whether that’s organizing partnerships or looking at how different businesses will work with each other to make sure we’re doing something that makes sense in the midst of a crisis. We all know government moves slowly, but they’re a very willing partner, probably led very dramatically by Administrator Craig Fugate at FEMA in terms of just getting out there and being very pragmatic. He has used the term “whole community” a great deal, but it is true. The only thing that potentially holds us back is a mindset that we’re waiting for somebody else to lead the dance.

How have things changed since 9/11 in terms of companies like Wells Fargo becoming more involved in emergency management?

It has changed for everyone in that we may have had a belief of a certain installation from large catastrophic problems whether they are terrorism or a hurricane. If you look back [at] the 1970s, when firefighting kind of got incident command going on the government side and the government recognized how that needed to connect, it really didn’t permeate the private sector until after 9/11.
Business has recognized it, and we have probably all gone through the same transition where we look at the big scary thing in the room. It was terrorism for a long time, and then we had the wake-up call from natural disasters. What I’m seeing today — and I hope that we accelerate — is a move to resilience. This move to understanding that it is a combination of being ready for when something happens to you and being able to either avoid it, mitigate it, prevent it if you can, or simply get back up and get going as fast as you can.

That all goes back to business continuity. Can you elaborate on that?

We do something that I think is rather unique. My group enterprise incident management team is a part of our enterprise business continuity planning team.

We recognized a long time ago that the tradition of continuing your business process was very closely related to the ability to respond to something as it happened and to connect a life-safety part to the business continuity to recovery.

Can you talk about your involvement with InfraGard?

The Minnesota chapter I’ve led for the last four years had 700 members when I started, and we now have 1,400-plus. My new role as chair of the Regional Consortium Coordinating Council (RC3) is even more exciting to me in that it looks to set up partnerships across the country. The RC3 is designated within the National Infrastructure Protection Plan as one of three councils that the DHS uses to connect with private sector.

Our business environment is at a point of traumatic change with faster connections. I read that we are at a point of recovery, but the technology and the social connection we all know are affecting business dramatically, and they’ll have an impact on resilience in ways that we’re just beginning to understand and envision.

People will respond and the community will come together. We are learning that, and we in the private sector and government must be a part of that. We need to innovate and focus, and that kind of connection will also make our resilience in the end much better and more efficient than it is today. 

Jim McKay Editor

Jim McKay is the editor of Emergency Management. He lives in Orangevale, Calif., with his wife, Christie, daughter, Ellie, and son, Ronan. He relaxes by fly fishing on the Truckee River for big, wild trout. Jim can be reached at jmckay@emergencymgmt.com.

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