Big banks brace for the coronavirus

Business

On Monday many of JPMorgan’s UK-based staff are being temporarily moved to a different office. They’re not alone.

Goldman Sachs last week sent around 200 members of staff to test a site in Croydon, South London for the day to ensure the systems worked effectively.

Many of these measures by some of the world’s biggest banks follow the events that took place at HSBC last week.

HSBC sent home more than 100 staff from the tenth floor of its Canary Wharf offices on Thursday. The move came after one staff member, who was part of the research division, returned from travelling and was diagnosed with the Covid-19 virus.

Evacuation

The employee is now under medical supervision and has self-isolated, and the rest of the research division worked from home on that day.

This was the first known case at a major company in the UK’s financial service hub.

The research floor received a “deep clean” from a specialist professional services company.

HSBC said the building, which houses close to 10,000 workers, would remain open after it took medical advice.

Regulation

Regulator the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), says it doesn’t have an issue with staff working from backup sites or even from home, so long as certain standards are met.

The FCA expects firms to be able to enter orders and transactions promptly into the relevant systems, use recorded lines when trading and give staff the compliance support they need.

JPMorgan says it began its coronavirus contingency plan last week by splitting up teams to work in different offices around the country.

Many members of staff are now either working in a different office than normal or at home.

The bank has offices in London, Bournemouth, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Nature of the job

However, the nature of the job means that working from home is not an option for many staff at most of the large investment banks such as JP Morgan or its rival Goldman Sachs.

That’s because most traders and salespeople need to sit together on a trading floor which is monitored in order to meet regulatory rules.

Goldman Sachs hasn’t activated its coronavirus contingency plan just yet but if the need arises the bank says it is ready to act.