Michael Gorriz

Courtesy of Standard Chartered

From sourcing 2,000 laptops for computer-less staff to boosting remote working capacity 20-fold, Michael Gorriz spent the year at the center of a global bank’s scramble to cope with an office-emptying pandemic.

Standard Chartered Plc’s chief information officer had a ringside seat for the start of the crisis. While his bank is headquartered in London, the German-born Gorriz works from Singapore — a five-hour flight to Wuhan, the Chinese epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak. StanChart’s branch in Wuhan was locked down, giving an early inkling of what life under Covid-19 might be like.

The pandemic drove thousands of older customers online for the first time, stress-testing technology for a company that’s bet heavily on digital banking. The Wuhan outbreak also gave Gorriz a unique perspective on enabling working from home at a time when the crisis still seemed remote in global banks’ western bases.

“My management team and I speculated this might not be the end, so we just kept on pushing,” said Gorriz, who spearheaded a drive to increase the number of remote login channels for employees from 5,000 at the start of the year to more than 100,000 six weeks after the first Chinese lockdown.

With the worst of the pandemic seemingly over in StanChart’s Asian markets, Gorriz, who has been in his role in 2015, is turning his attention to the lessons he learned as the chief technologist.

His comments have been edited and condensed.

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