Bank safety measures evolve well beyond hand sanitizer

October 15th, 2020

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Testing and tracing

There are two types of contact tracing for apps, said Robert Cattanach, a partner at the law firm Dorsey & Whitney. Bluetooth can be used to alert people if they come within a certain distance of someone else who is diagnosed with COVID-19, but without disclosing their identities. Apps that depend on geolocation are less private.

In the U.S., there has been very little rollout of contact tracing and employees may feel that it’s invasive. “I think financial institutions are still grappling with what balance to strike,” said Cattanach. “How much information do we collect and share?”

PwC chose the Bluetooth route when it began building its Check-In contact-tracing app in late March and early April. It uses a combination of Wi-Fi signals and Bluetooth to gauge proximity and measure duration of exposure for users in a branch or office.

Since launching in June, the app has been deployed by 50 users, including those in financial services.

PwC used geographic ring-fencing to ensure that tracing kicks in only when employees are in a defined area, such as an office building, rather than following their movements outside of work. Employees won’t get push notifications; instead, the data is collected behind the scenes and the employer can decide what degrees of exposure merit a notification, such as spending more than 15 minutes within six feet of a colleague who tested positive.

“Instead of having to notify everyone in the building that there has been a positive case, it’s allowed a much greater degree of precision so a company can communicate who has been exposed and the level of exposure,” said Alie Hoover, banking transformation lead at PwC U.S.

Sterling, a provider of background and identity services, recently launched a COVID-19 testing program for employees who must return to the office. Companies can decide on their testing strategy (for example, whether they want employees to get tested at a clinic or using an at-home kit) and Sterling will coordinate the process with its lab partners, email employees with instructions, store the results securely on its platform and aggregate reports.

Joy Henry, general manager of the financial and business services group at Sterling, estimates that banks are currently keeping 30% to 50% of their employee populations in the office at one time, depending on office space. The company says it is working with banks in the U.S. that are household names.

Some ideas are promising but not yet vetted for banks. For example, density sensors that alert management when there are too many people in one area are popping up. But some consider a space’s entire square footage without considering how the square footage is broken up, such as by dividers, said Riccio of Deluxe.

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