UK financial services sector undergoes major stress test

The UK’s financial services sector has undergone an extended exercise to test its ability to meet the risks of a major operational disruption.

The Bank of England said it had, in partnership with the financial sector and the UK financial authorities (HM Treasury and Financial Conduct Authority), undertaken the  two-day UK market wide simulation exercise, SIMEX 22. The simulation set out to test the UK financial sector’s resilience to major operational disruption.

The bank said the exercise was designed to build on the success of SIMEX 2018, SIMEX22 involved 50 regulated firms as well as the financial authorities.

“SIMEX22 will help both the financial authorities and firms identify improvements to the collective response capabilities, improving the resilience of the financial sector as a whole, and promoting a stable financial system that the public can depend on,”  it said in a statement released after the exercise was completed.

Sam Woods deputy governor of Prudential Regulation and CEO of the Prudential Regulation Authority said: “It is important to prepare our response to any widespread incident. The financial authorities and industry working together to rehearse our response is a vital part of this.”

David Postings, Chief Executive of UK Finance, added: “A resilient financial services sector is crucial in a modern economy and a continual focus for the banking and finance industry. The sector-wide exercise this week will help ensure our collective response to any potential incident is robust, protecting the UK’s financial system, institutions and customers.”

The exercise was developed by the Cross Market Operational Resilience Group (CMORG), a joint initiative between the financial authorities, UK Finance and industry.

“The initiative aims to improve the resilience of the UK financial sector through collective action. CMORG achieves this through the identification and creation of guidance and resilience capabilities that address potential systemic risks in the sector. CMORG will consider the findings and ensure that collective capabilities are developed to mitigate any risks that are identified,” the bank explained.”

It added: “Operational resilience is important for maintaining financial stability in the UK.

“By ‘operational resilience’, we mean the ability of firms, and the financial sector as a whole, to absorb and adapt to shocks and disruptions, rather than contribute to them.

“It extends beyond business continuity and disaster recovery. Financial firms and financial market infrastructures (FMIs) must have robust plans in place to deliver essential services, no matter what the cause of the disruption. This includes man-made threats such as physical and cyber-attacks, IT system outages and third-party supplier failure. And it also includes natural hazards such as fire, flood, severe weather and pandemic.

“As a central bank and as a regulator of financial firms and FMIs, we have an important part to play in improving the resilience of the sector.”