JPMorgan Splits Staff Amid Banks’ Quickening Virus Response
(Bloomberg) -- Global banks are stepping up their response to the coronavirus, shifting operations as the outbreak spreads in New York, London and other financial hubs.
JPMorgan Chase & Co., Morgan Stanley, Bank of America Corp. and Danish lender Danske Bank are dividing their sales and trading workers, sending some employees to back-up locations to reduce disruptions if employees are exposed to the virus, people briefed on the plans said. JPMorgan and Wells Fargo & Co. restricted non-essential domestic travel, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. is planning to split workers among rotating teams and Royal Bank of Canada turned a conference scheduled for next week into a virtual event.
The moves go beyond previous efforts in which banks had been testing and adjusting plans for keeping critical operations open through a potential pandemic, but hadn’t actually implemented them. Experts have been urging populations to implement social-distancing measures to limit the spread of the highly contagious virus. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday that spread of the virus from person to person is likely to become more common.
JPMorgan’s sales and traders will be informed of their assigned locations this week, and are expected to work from those places and limit contact with employees at different sites “until further notice,” according to the memo. The bank also prohibited staff from different locations from attending the same in-person meetings with clients or regulators, and told them not to attend the same internal meetings, such as training sessions and town halls.
“We are starting to shift people as a precautionary measure at this stage,” Marc Badrichani, who leads global sales and research, and Troy Rohrbaugh, the head of global markets, wrote in a memo to employees Thursday. “Dividing our workforce into different locations improves our ability to serve clients continuously while reducing the health risks associated with physical contact should a case arise.”
Brian Marchiony, a bank spokesman, confirmed the plans and said they are “precautionary.”
JPMorgan’s senior leaders are also recommending against non-essential domestic business travel in all of its worldwide locations, according to a memo to staff sent late Thursday, expanding a policy that previously limited international travel. And the firm has postponed a gaming industry conference set for next week and made another investor event a virtual one.
Morgan Stanley has begun to shift half of traders from Manhattan operations to redundancy sites in Westchester, New York, one of the people said.
Bank of America is moving more than 100 people in its equities and fixed income, currencies and commodities groups to a backup site in Connecticut starting Monday, according to a person familiar with the situation. The move will comprise mostly traders as a precaution, while others will continue to report to the New York trading floor. Staff were informed of the moves Thursday after being selected based on their roles and coverage areas.
While top Citigroup Inc. executives have been visiting redundancy sites in New Jersey and London that will serve as backups to its main trading floors, the bank hasn’t yet moved most traders, a person with knowledge of the matter said.
JPMorgan’s precautions, which will result in only a small number of sales and trading staff working from home, highlight the difficulty banks have had making contingency plans for traders, who can’t telecommute as easily.
The bank’s New York staff will be divided among the main trading floor at the former Bear Stearns building in Manhattan and back-up locations in Brooklyn and New Jersey, according to a person briefed on the moves. Some will also be working from home. In London, staff will be split among the main floor and two alternate locations in the area, the person said, asking not to be identified discussing internal plans.
Earlier this week, JPMorgan asked 10% of staff across the consumer bank to work remotely to help test the resilience of its plans.
It’s prudent for companies to take precautions as the virus spreads, and it also helps to reassure employees, said Paul Sorbera, president of Wall Street executive search firm Alliance Consulting in New York.
“It’s essential,” he said. “Firms that aren’t doing it set themselves up for a lot of financial risk. You could have trading losses, you could have lost business for clients, and you could have employees who get sick.”
--With assistance from Jenny Surane, Sridhar Natarajan, Riley Griffin, Matthew Monks, Davide Scigliuzzo and Viren Vaghela.
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