Scotiabank Crisis Communication Plan

Crisis Communication
CMN 6050 90430 Summer Term

Some Background to the Plan

Scotiabank is a Canadian financial institution with a 180-year history. Headquartered in Toronto, it has operations in more than 50 countries, with approximately 80,000 employees and 21 million customers. Scotiabank offers retail and commercial banking services, including wire transfers, microfinance, credit cards, mortgages and loans, wealth management for high net worth individuals, and corporate banking and capital markets products, such a new stock issuances and gold trading. Not all services are offered in all countries, largely due to local banking regulations. Scotiabank operates in the US, the UK and Ireland, throughout the Caribbean, Central and South America, and, for gold trading only, in Egypt and India. The corporate strategy of the bank involves expanding its footprint in China, India, Russia and Brazil.

Banking in Canada is heavily regulated by the federal government; all mergers and acquisitions must gain federal approval. Given the current political climate, a merger between the largest five Canadian banks would not be approved (they tried and failed in the mid-1990s) nor would a takeover by a foreign bank. Therefore Canadian banks have less threat of merger or acquisition, and have focused on acquisitions outside the country in order to expand. Canadian banks also weathered the recent banking crisis largely by being more attuned to risk management principles, and Canada is seen by the international banking community as a leader in prudent banking practices, such as developing and implementing the measures outlined in the Basel Accords. There is pressure to continue to uphold this status.

Scotiabank is also the most frugal bank in Canada, and salaries and hours of bank branch employees in particular are lower than that of competitors. In the meantime, certain areas of the country – Quebec, Northern Ontario, and British Columbia – are known for pro-union sentiments and some unions are targeting bank branch employees with unionization drives.

Frugality has also extended to the bank’s IT infrastructure, which is currently undergoing upgrading but which is thought to be vulnerable.

Given the complexity of Scotiabank’s business and its international reach, for this assignment I have limited the scope to crises that would take place in Canada, or have a significant impact on the head office.

Crisis Inventory for Scotiabank

Type Description Happened Before Probability Impact
Natural Disaster Massive blackout or ice storm in Toronto region. Yes, in 1998, 2003 and 2013. 3 – Possible 3 – Considerable short term financial loss due to shut down of operations; moderate media interest
Security breach of any banking systems.

Malfunction of ATMs/online or mobile banking.

Yes, but to TD Bank (repeatedly). 4 – Probable 4 – Possible financial loss; considerable media interest
Environment risk
Forced exit from a country due to political or economic turmoil. Yes, in Argentina in 2002. 3 – Possible in Russia, Egypt, and Thailand due to recent turmoil 4 – Serious financial loss; considerable media interest
Employee relations
Unionization of a bank branch Yes, one in Ontario. 3 – Possible 3 – Considerable damage to employee relations and public image; considerable media interest
Employee lawsuit Individual or class action lawsuit by employees regarding labor practices Yes, two high profile lawsuits currently ongoing. 2 – Remotely possible 4 – Considerable damage to employee relations and public image; considerable media interest
Criminal case Bank employees charged with violating anti-money laundering or securities trading laws. Yes, but to RBC. 2 – Only remotely possible given high internal controls 4 – Considerable damage to bank’s reputation; considerable media interest
reputation risk
A tragedy at a bank sponsored event.

Financial mismanagement of a bank sponsored community/cultural event.

Yes, but to other sponsors. 2 – Remotely possible 2 – Some damage to bank reputation; some local media interest

Crisis Inventory Graph

For the remainder of this exercise, we will examine two potential crises: an environmental disaster impacting the head office location and a short term computer systems failure.

Scotiabank Crisis Communication Plan


Scotiabank understands the importance that continuity of our operations has for our clients and customers, as well as our employees. While it is impossible to predict the future, we can plan for some situations which are likely to happen at some point. Often when crisis hits, we need to act quickly to respond to employees, clients and customer, shareholders, and the communities in which we work.

This plan is intended to provide direction on how to proceed during an emergency shut down of our head office location, or in the event that our banking systems are shutdown due to malfunction or external threat.  In this plan, you will find details on important steps to take in communicating critical details to employees and customers, as well as the protocol for drafting and approving messages for distribution.

This plan should be kept handy, and reviewed on a quarterly basis, or when major organizational change takes place.

Being proactive about crisis planning will help us continue to operate in an efficient manner.


Brian Porter

Rehearsal dates

As the City of Toronto by-laws require all tenants of office buildings to conduct an annual fire drill and inspection, Scotiabank will conduct a rehearsal of this crisis communication plan to coincide with this activity. This typically happens in April or May, and should involve a full rehearsal at the designated alternate work location at Burnamthorpe Road in Mississauga.

On a quarterly basis, and one month prior to the annual fire drill, the head of the Security and Emergency Preparedness Team will instruct all VPs to have their team fire warden request that all employees to update the information on the team emergency contact list, including home address and contact particulars, as well as emergency contact name and contact particulars.

Purpose and Objectives

In our day-to-day dealings with employees, customers and clients, shareholders and the communities in which we do business, Scotiabank aims to provide communication that is clear, concise, timely, accurate, and, above all, open and honest.

In any crisis, we aim to follow these same guiding principles, while also taking care to safeguard our employees and our customers from physical danger or the loss of their financial assets or confidentiality.

List of Key Publics

Public Local Natural
Local Short Term
Systems Failure
All bank executive vice presidents and group heads
Non-executive Members of Security and Emergency Management Team
Canadian employees
·         Banking call center employees
·         IT call center employees
·         Public website, social media and employee intranet webmasters
International employees
Scotia Plaza Building
Administration & Security
Canadian banking regulators
Investment analysts
Canadian Press or Reuters
(news release for media as required by securities law)
Canadian business media (especially Business News Network and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s business program)
Customers and clients in Canada
Other banks
Local emergency authorities (fire, police, etc.)

Crisis Communication Team Members

The crisis communication team members are:

  • Graham Parker, EVP Human Resources & Communications
  • De Rabbie, Director, Media Relations
  • Flannagan, Vice President, Corporate Communications

It is also critical that the following be available:

  • Senior Manager, Executive Communications (responsible for CEO communications)
  • Senior Manager, Translation (French and Spanish)
  • Senior Manager, Corporate Website

All draft materials must be reviewed by:

Crisis Communication Cascade
For much of its internal communications for urgent matters, Scotiabank employs a cascade method whereby senior executives get advance warning by email, followed by VPs who must then conduct face-to-face meetings with their teams (or delegate this to Directors/Managers if the team is large.) For those with remote teams, the protocol is by phone. Note that all VPs and above carry bank Blackberries.

Public Local Natural
Local Short Term
Systems Failure
All bank executive vice presidents and group heads Email  Email
Non-executive Members of Security and Emergency Management Team Text to security console Text to security console
Canadian employees Face-to face from manager with back up email Email
·         Banking call center employees Face-to face from manager with back up email Face-to face from manager
·         IT call center employees Face-to face from manager with back up email Face-to face from manager
·         Public website, social media and employee intranet webmasters Face-to face from manager with back up email Face-to face from manager
International employees Email Email
Scotia Plaza Building
Administration & Security
Phone call
Canadian banking regulators Phone call from Government Relations Director
Investment analysts
Canadian Press or Reuters
(news release for media as required by securities law)
Canadian business media Phone call from Media Relations Director
Customers and clients in Canada Message on, Twitter Message on, Twitter
Other banks Phone call from EVP, IT to their counterpart
Local emergency authorities (fire, police, etc.) Phone call

Media Spokesperson

For any type of emergency, the CEO of Scotiabank, Brian Porter, would be authorized and prepared to speak to the media. In each case, his remarks would be prepared by a member of the Corporate or Media Relations team in Public, Corporate and Media Affairs. These individuals  would work together to ensure that the key messages given to the media are aligned with the messages given to employees.

Brian Porter may defer speaking to the media in favor of having a subject matter expert speak instead. In the case of a computer systems failure, the EVP of Information Technology, Kim McKenzie might be a more credible source. In the case of a environmental emergency, Sabi Marwah, EVP of Operations & Administration would be the spokesperson. Alternatively, the EVP for Human Resources & Communications would speak on behalf of the bank.

Emergency Personnel and Local Officials

Scotia Plaza, General Manager, Simone Campbell (security) 416-000-0000
Toronto Police                                                                                     416-000-0000
Toronto Fire Department                                                                    416-000-0000
Toronto Emergency Medical Services                                                416-000-0000
Toronto Hydro Commission                                                               416-000-0000
City of Toronto Water                                                                        416-000-0000
St. Michael’s Hospital                                                                         416-000-0000
Toronto General Hospital                                                                   416-000-0000
Sunnybrook Hospital                                                                          416-000-0000
North York General Hospital                                                             416-000-0000

Key Media

Wire Service
Account Representative, Canada Newswire, Toronto (English and French)

Newspapers: Print and Online
Business Editor, Globe and Mail Newspaper, Toronto
Business Editor, Toronto Star, Toronto
Business Editor, National Post, Toronto
Business Editor, Toronto Sun, Toronto
Business Editor, Montreal Gazette, Montreal

Business Editor, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Toronto (English)
Business Editor, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Montreal (French)
Editor, Business News Network, Toronto
Editor, City-TV, Toronto

News desk, CBC Radio, Toronto (English)
News desk, CBC Radio, Montreal (French)

Spokespersons for Related Organizations

For Shut Down of Head Office Due to Natural Disaster:
Toronto Police Corporate Communications Unit (24 hour coverage)            416-000-0000
Toronto Fire Department Deputy Chief of Communications, Darrel Reid                416-000-0000
Toronto Transit Commission Corporate Communications, Brad Ross                       416-000-0000
Ontario Office of Emergency Management                                                               416-000-0000
City of Toronto Deputy Mayor, Norm Kelly                                                             416-000-0000
City of Toronto Centre City Councilor, Kristyn Wong-Tam                                     416-000-0000
Scotia Plaza, General Manager, Simone Campbell                                                     416-000-0000

For Systems Failure:
Privacy Commissioner of Canada, Media Relations Officer                                      819-000-0000
Canadian Bankers Association, Media Relations Specialist                                       416-000-0000

Crisis Communications Control Centre

Scotiabank has multiple back up centers that can be utilized in the event that key head office functions and teams need to be relocated from the downtown location in the event of a natural disaster.

In the Greater Toronto Area, these centers are located at:

  • Western Business Park, Burnamthorpe Road, Mississauga (preferred location)
  • Human Resources Service Centre, 1881 Birchmount Avenue, Scarborough

In addition, should a natural disaster affect a wider area of Toronto, the necessary teams can be relocated to:

  • Information Technology Support Centre, Stratford Ontario

Equipment and Supplies

Although each of the crisis centers is equipped with several internet enabled laptops, landline phones, fax machines, and printers (as well as common office supplies), each member of the crisis communication team should endeavor to take their company-supplied Blackberry and laptop.

Communication team members should also take their up-to-date Procedural Manual which lists contact names, communication processes and other pertinent information, in the event that this document cannot be accessed from the shared computer directory during the crisis.

Pre-gathered Information

The following information should be kept at the crisis center in hard copy format:

  • Communication Department Procedural Manual
  • Scotiabank Global Executive Directory
  • Scotiabank Divisional Key Messages
  • List of team’s home contact information, as well as that of key executives

Key Messages

For an environmental emergency:

  • We have shut down our offices at Scotia Plaza on King Street in Toronto due to the impending [snow storm/ice storm/hurricane] as requested by the Ontario Emergency Management Office in order to safeguard our employees and customers.
  • Our head office location will re-open when we are advised that it is safe to do so by the local authorities, and provided our offices have not sustained any damage that would make entering the premises unsafe.
  • We advise the public to go to our website,, or watch our Twitter account at @scotiabank, for further information. Employees will be contacted by their immediate manager regarding work arrangements.
  • In the meantime, customers are advised to use our online and mobile banking resources to conduct their banking until this emergency passes. Electronic banking call centers are still operating in other parts of the country in the event customers experience issues and need to speak with a customer service representative.

For an systems shutdown or breach:

  • We have been alerted by our information security team that our [ATMs/online banking/mobile banking/teller consoles] systems have gone down and are unavailable to be accessed for customer banking needs.
  • We are working with our IT teams to locate and rectify the situation as quickly as possible. We appreciate the patience of our customers as we work through this issue.
  • At this time, we are investigating the possibility that our systems have been breached, and customer files or accounts have been compromised. We take customer privacy and confidentiality very seriously, and will work with the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) to undertake whatever steps are necessary.

Website and Social Media

It is critical that if the head office location of Scotiabank, Scotia Plaza, is shut down due to an environmental emergency, or there is a computer systems issue that causes our banking systems to go down, a message should be placed:

  • on the Canadian public website (
  • on HR Passport, the Canadian employee intranet, in English and French.
  • on our corporate Twitter account, @scotiabank, in English and French

Trick Questions

Trick questions from the media are not expected for an environmental emergency.

Trick questions from the media related to a systems failure or breach would relate to the level of diligence and financial resources that the bank devotes to its computer systems. In the initial phase of the crisis, the spokesperson should remind the reporter that the cause of the failure/breach is under investigation. The following key message can also be employed:

  • The security of our customers’ financial information and assets is paramount to our business. We take computer systems security seriously to ensure we meet banking compliance standards, and review our protocols regularly as new issues emerge.


For an environmental emergency:

Note: The Bank’s security department regularly monitors Environment Canada for reports of foul weather so they would be advised of a extreme weather alert as soon as possible. 

  • Evidence that groups of employees are not receiving regular mass emails while at work which, if unresolved, could lead to issues during an environmental emergency. Possible problems: employees do not evacuate the building immediately or come to work unaware that a weather emergency has been called.
  • Evidence that the specialized security consoles carried by members of the Security and Emergency Management Team are not functioning properly, which would delay an evacuation response.

For a systems failure or security breach:

  • Other banks and financial institutions experiencing problems with systems that have similar architecture to Scotiabank’s.
  • Reports of any virus or malware in our banking systems or at other financial institutions.
  • Online protests by groups related to the Occupy movement or Anonymous, who are known to be skilled at computer hacktivism.
  • Reports that banking systems are running slower than normal, especially during peak time, could indicate that a crash is imminent.
  • Performance management issues with, or involuntary termination of, any IT department employees who have high level remote access rights.

Evaluation Form

Please use this form to conduct a review of the crisis communication response.

Date of Crisis:
Description of Crisis Events:
Communication Messages Issued:
Responses to Communications:
What Worked During the Crisis:
What Did Not Work During the Crisis:
Next Steps:
Reviewed By: