Preparing for a pandemic was never the No. 1 concern of Belgian companies – until the coronavirus hit in March 2020. “Japan is different,” says Kozue Connor. “Our country is so prone to disasters that every major firm has a business continuity plan to prepare for any type of incident.” Since 2019, Kozue has been sharing her knowhow in risk and business continuity management with Belgian firms as a consultant on Ordina’s Security & Privacy team.
Studied in the large city of Yokohoma, south of Tokyo, Kozue holds a master’s degree in business administration. She combined her university studies with a job as an assistant at the Hamagin Research Institute. “My psychology professor conducted research into crisis management there,” Kozue explains. “It did introduce me to the world of crisis and risk management.”
Pandemic risk management
Kozue’s study in the university gave her a foot in the door at Tokio Marine Nichid, a prestigious Japanese risk consulting agency, where she became a risk consultant. “As it had been just one year since the Mexican flu hit the world, my first job was to draft a pandemic report,” Kozue recalls. Over the years, Kozue strengthened her expertise in risk management. In 2015, she published an extensive article on the topic in Nikkei Industrial Journal, one of Japan’s leading newspapers. “The Ebola pandemic of 2014 had a significant impact on the health and the economy in some parts of the world,” she explains. “In the aftermath of that crisis, I covered the topic of pandemic risk management in the Journal.” Based on ample research, the article included a review of recent infectious diseases, tips to prepare for a pandemic and the difference between a pandemic and a one-off disaster in business continuity management.
Japan as a disaster-proofing champion
“Japan is particularly vulnerable to natural disasters like typhoons, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis,” continues Kozue. “Just one year after joining Tokio Marine Nichid, the 2011 tsunami and the resulting nuclear disaster hit Japan. That was a shock for our country. In spite of the devastating impacts, however, companies managed to bounce back pretty quickly, thanks to our country’s experience in disaster management. Disaster-proofing is a science in Japan: more than making our key infrastructure more resilient against natural disasters, our authorities also invest big in communications and rapid recovery. Major companies, for their parts, all have business continuity plans in place.”
Disaster-proofing is a science in Japan. Major companies all have business continuity plans in place.
Business continuity management: the basics
Business continuity management is all about prioritizing the business activities and ensuring continuity of the key activities. “It starts with understanding how a disaster could impact your business activities, your revenue, your customers and your employees. Then, you decide what you need to keep the business running, or get it running again, and keep disruption to a minimum. That includes identifying the vital operations and a series of contingencies, as well as defining clear roles and responsibilities. Once that’s done, you need to draft continuity plans, test these and regularly review them,” Kozue explains.
Business continuity management is all about anticipating the crises that could affect a business and planning for them.
Strengthening risk management expertise
In 2017, Kozue took her experience with crisis and business continuity management with her on a plane to Belgium, where her husband had accepted a new job. She started studying French and obtained a certificate in advanced computer security at Stanford University. In the summer of 2019, she joined our Security & Privacy team: “Disasters come in many forms and a cyberattack is definitely one of them. I took the computer security program at Stanford University because cybersecurity is clearly linked to risk and business continuity management. That’s why Ordina’s job description fit me really well. Our first interaction was open, warm and sympathetic and that’s how I’ve experienced the firm ever since. Ordina takes really good care of its people and helps them grow.”
Business continuity at AXA Bank
AXA Bank was the first to rely on Kozue’s knowhow. Kozue: “AXA sets great value on business continuity. They called in our help to improve their business continuity management approach to ensure that it follows their strict governance guidelines. Specifically, I helped them improve the quality of assessments, such as business impact analyses and business continuity risk assessments, which they use for the planning.”
IT disaster recovery at PepsiCo
Since April 2020, Kozue has been helping PepsiCo application management. She is ensuring security controls including disaster recovery and managing the risks around the application portfolio. together with her colleagues across various countries.
More women, less work pressure
Looking back upon her first year as an employee in Belgium, Kozue is enthusiastic. “Though I am the only Japanese employee at Ordina, I do feel at home here. Our Security & Privacy business unit is a very diverse team, with people from different countries. And I have to admit: I love office life in Belgium. But there are a lot of women in consultancy jobs and in leadership positions here in Belgium. On top of that, I was surprised about the comfortably casual work outfits here and the shorter working days. Japanese people work insane hours, which is why so many women with children stay at home. I’m delighted to be able to combine work and family. While I love being with the kids, it is just as energizing to help companies assess their business risks and, as such, help them bounce back after whatever disaster crosses their paths.”
There are a lot more women in consultancy jobs and in leadership positions in Belgium, everyone wears comfortably casual work outfits here and working days are shorter.