Wall Street banks order staffers to work remotely as virus spreads

(Reuters) – Working from home went from optional to mandatory across Wall Street this week as financial firms reported their first confirmed cases of coronavirus and the outbreak spread further through New York City.

JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N) and Goldman Sachs Group Inc (GS.N) separately announced similar programs on Thursday for working remotely to stem the spread of the pandemic. Each bank told employees the staff would be split roughly in two for a weekly rotation in which half the workers will work from home each week and half go to the office.

JPMorgan’s plan applies to New York-area employees while Goldman’s plan was for most staff across North America and Europe, excluding some sales, trading and critical staff.

JPMorgan, the largest U.S. lender, informed New York-area employees in an internal memo seen by Reuters. The bank later confirmed the program, done in response to a request from the state government.

The bank plans that by the end of this month, only between 25% and 50% of team members will work from home, the memo said.

The plan applies to most corporate employees based in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Jersey City, New Jersey, but not to branch workers or traders.

Goldman Sachs told employees that most staff across North America and Europe would start working from home or one of the bank’s business continuity centers on a rotating schedule starting Monday, according to another memo viewed by Reuters.

Barclays PLC (BARC.L) and Credit Suisse Group AG (CSGN.S) also informed their investment bankers on Wednesday of a similar rotating schedule, sources said.

A spokesman for Credit Suisse declined to comment and a Barclays spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.

The banks also have ramped up other precautionary efforts like office deep cleaning after firms like Barclays and BlackRock Inc (BLK.N) reported their first confirmed cases.

On Thursday a Manhattan-based Royal Bank of Canada employee tested positive, Bloomberg reported.

As of Thursday there were more than 126,000 cases of coronavirus globally and more than 4,600 people have died, according to a Reuters tally.

Citigroup has put signs around its New York City headquarters asking visitors and employees not to sit on certain chairs to practice social distancing.

Another Wall Street investment bank ran overnight disaster tests on its remote working systems this week to prepare for having more bankers work from home.

“It’s not a matter of if, it’s when,” said a bank source familiar with the contingency planning efforts.

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