Lord's Tech as Savior: Michael Radziemski's Tech Vision Helps Lord Abbett Weather Hurricane Sandy

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Lord's Tech as Savior: Michael Radziemski's Tech Vision Helps Lord Abbett Weather Hurricane Sandy

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The Main Event
A year before Sandy hit, Hurricane Irene swept up the Eastern Seaboard. Some reports anticipated Irene having the same destructive force as Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans in 2005. Those predictions proved overblown, but Irene still forced companies to examine their business continuity planning (BCP) procedures, and served as a scenario test for the main event: Sandy.

When it comes to BCP, most technology-related contingencies must occur well before the event, which can prove difficult. “We had Hurricane Irene a year ago, which was bad but definitely not as bad as Sandy, and we learned from that and made ourselves even stronger,” Radziemski says.

The day before Sandy hit—a Sunday—Lord Abbett’s management team communicated to employees through a firm-wide messaging system that they needed to stay at home on Monday and Tuesday, October 29 and 30. Flooding on the waterfront adjacent to Lord Abbett peaked at waist-high, although the water depth inside the building was less than one foot.

Radziemski says 100 percent of the firm can work remotely, with over half of employees owning company-issued laptops. The staff has remote access to their email, calendars and contacts, while managers are set up with conference call lines. In addition to the iPads with virtualized desktops, Lord Abbett is currently working on enabling all employees to have access to virtualized desktops.

On the Wednesday after the storm, officials opened Lord Abbett’s disaster recovery site in Carlstadt, New Jersey, about a 25-minute drive northwest of Jersey City. The firm is currently in the process of changing its DR site to a larger space located farther away from JC, a decision made well before Hurricane Sandy.

Lord Abbett’s offices at 90 Hudson Street were closed for a full week in the wake of Sandy, partly due to water damage and cleaning, and partly because the firm had to wait for Jersey City officials to conduct safety inspections. By the end of the day on Friday, November 2, Lord Abbett received word that employees could return to work, which they did on the following Monday.

Ultimately, perhaps the greatest struggle faced by Lord Abbett staff had nothing to do with technology but, rather, food. “We spend all this time planning technology and where people will be, how the business will run, and how processes will work, but when we got to our disaster recovery site, all the restaurants were shut, so there was no food,” Radziemski recalls.

But help was on the way. Food services provider Aramark, which services Lord Abbett’s cafeteria daily, found food from various stores that were still open, and cooked and delivered meals to the disaster site.

“It’s funny how you may not think about it,” Radziemski says, “but a little thing like having a good meal when you’re in unusual circumstances like that makes a huge difference from a morale standpoint.”

Fundamental Data

Name: Michael Radziemski
Age: 51
Title: CIO, Lord Abbett & Co.
Hometown: Lafayette, Ind.
Current Residence: Nyack, NY
Lord Abbett Assets Under Management: $129 billion as of December 2012
Size of IT Department: 145 full-time employees
Education: BS in operations research and industrial engineering from Cornell University, MS in industrial engineering from Stanford University
Hobbies: Skiing, golf, spending time with my kids

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