FSA warns firms to address swine flu

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LONDON - The UK Financial Services Authority (FSA) has released a statement saying firms should be assessing their contingency plans in response to the arrival of swine flu in the UK - currently standing at 27 confirmed cases.

The regulator says UK firms should reassess their business continuity planning to consider what steps they might need to take to address possible issues arising from the spread of the new influenza virus from Mexico.

The FSA says it is already contacting "high-impact firms", including infrastructure providers, to assess the impact of a more serious swine flu outbreak on any aspects of their businesses.

The FSA ran a market-wide business continuity exercise based on a pandemic risk scenario, in response to a previous pandemic scare surrounding the spread of the SARS and the bird flu virus. The 2006 study concluded that absenteeism could peak at up to 49%, with some clusters within business units of up to 60%.

Operational risk software and consultancy firm RiskBusiness has also released the results of its own global pandemic risk survey in response to fears over the swine flu virus - now given a 4 out of 5 alert rating from the World Health Organisation.

The firm says 72% of financial institutions surveyed have a pandemic-specific business continuity and resilience programme in place, but 30% of those programmes have either not been reviewed for more than 12 months or have never been reviewed, and 42% have either not been tested in over 12 months or have never been tested.

According to the research, only 41% of participants from Europe, the Middle East and Africa have recently reviewed their pandemic-specific business continuity programmes, compared with 64% of Asia-Pacific participants and 75% of firms taking part in the Americas.

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