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Business Comment

James Moore: City's 'shark' would do well to navigate the bureaucracy

Outlook A shark was loose in the City yesterday, but fortunately only an imaginary one. It was all about wargaming, and the very real possibility of a cyber attack on London's financial centre. The scenario – Waking Shark – was cooked up by Credit Suisse with input from various security types and involved more than 100 people playing a sophisticated version of Risk in a room together.

An earlier such event took place two years ago, simulating attacks during the Olympics, and it found – unsurprisingly – that communication, or rather lack of it, was a problem.

One of the failings of banks, and financial institutions such as clearing houses too, is that they have a tendency to be both hierarchical and bureaucratic. Which means a poor IT bod from bank A can sometimes struggle to get through to the right person at bank B or at the clearing house or at the regulator.

If, that is, he or she is even allowed to talk to bank B at all. Policies vary on this. But they're rigidly enforced. Getting it wrong can cost you your job. The poor IT bod might not get that far because he or she might have struggled to alert the right people at their own bank. You see how it goes and how problems can rapidly – and unnecessarily – turn into crises?

Needless to say, upon discovering that this game was afoot, it proved quite a challenge to find the right person to speak to about it. Fortunately, the Bank of England has some good people, so when my detective work had produced a result the briefing was at least of high quality. All the same, it did rather prove the point of the exercise.