- Credit Suisse is among firms urging two weeks away from office
- Banks including UBS have imposed travel curbs to mainland
(Bloomberg) – Global banks from Credit Suisse Group SA to Morgan Stanley are telling Hong Kong staff to work from home for two weeks if they’ve just visited mainland China, as they step up their response to the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus.
UBS Group AG and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. are among financial firms that have also imposed travel restrictions to the mainland, where the death toll now exceeds 100. HSBC Holdings Plc suspended business travel to Hong Kong till Feb. 11. Some including Standard Chartered Plc are providing staff with face masks and hand sanitizers, along with guidance on hygiene and how to avoid getting sick.
The measures follow Hong Kong’s decision Saturday to raise its response level to “emergency” to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, which is believed to have an incubation period of around 14 days. China will stop individual travelers to the financial hub while closing some border checkpoints and restricting flights and train services from the mainland, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said Tuesday.
The Hong Kong government has urged residents returning from China to stay home for 14 days, and announced the temporary closing of all sports and cultural facilities starting Wednesday. It’s advising civil servants to work from home after the Lunar New Year holidays except for emergency reasons and essential services, and asking other employers to follow suit.
Below is the latest on how banks with operations in Hong Kong are responding to the outbreak, which began in early December in Wuhan, central China, before spreading around the country and abroad.
Employees at Credit Suisse must talk with their division manager and human resources before returning to work after the two-week period, according to an internal memo obtained by Bloomberg. Anyone with fever or flu-like symptoms is required to work from home until a doctor certifies the person is well enough to return, it said. The memo said the International Commerce Center tower, where it has its main offices, would be starting temperature checks as well. A Hong Kong-based spokeswoman declined to comment.
Morgan Stanley is urging staff to defer non-essential travel to and within mainland China, according to a company memo seen by Bloomberg and confirmed by a Hong Kong-based spokesman. Employees returning from the mainland must work from home for 14 days and then only return to work if they’re symptom-free. It has convened a crisis management team to ensure business continuity.
Goldman Sachs has recommended delaying non-essential business travel to all mainland China cities, a spokesperson said. The U.S. firm is also implementing flexible work arrangements for Hong Kong employees should they need to stay home.
JPMorgan Chase & Co. asked Hong Kong employees who have returned from mainland China as a precaution to work from home for 14 days from the date of their return, people familiar with the matter said.
HSBC is ensuring that client-facing employees in Hong Kong wear surgical masks, while encouraging those that can work from home to do so, a spokeswoman said by email. Staff are being asked to stay home for 14 days if they have traveled to the mainland or been in contact with anyone who has traveled through Hubei province in the past 14 days. The lender also suspended business travel to the mainland till further notice.
Standard Chartered has told employees not to travel to Hubei province and is restricting travel elsewhere in mainland China and Hong Kong, a spokeswoman said. Employees and their family members returning from Hubei are being asked to work from home for 14 days. The U.K. bank is reducing face-to-face meetings and encouraging the use of technology to work remotely.
UBS said in a memo to staff — confirmed by a spokesman — that its Hong Kong office will be open as normal on Wednesday and asked employees in the city and Singapore to work remotely if they had returned from the mainland within the past 14 days.
BNP Paribas SA is urging staff who visited China in the past 14 days to stay at home for two weeks upon their return and to work from home as appropriate, people familiar with the matter said. A spokeswoman for BNP in Hong Kong declined to comment.
A spokesman for Citigroup Inc. in Hong Kong said its employees were being asked to report any personal travel to Wuhan or the surrounding area and to work from home for two weeks after returning. Business travel to the area was restricted earlier, he said.
Deutsche Bank AG has imposed travel restrictions to mainland China and asked staff to defer all non-business essential travel, according to a spokeswoman. Hong Kong-based staff who have traveled to the mainland over the past two weeks should work from home for at least 14 days. The lender also encouraged those juggling childcare responsibilities to pursue flexible work arrangements.
Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp. staff returning from mainland China are required to self-quarantine for 14 days and face masks are being distributed to all front-line employees across the Singaporean lender’s network, according to spokeswoman Koh Ching Ching. Hand sanitizers have been placed in offices and branches and cleaning in common areas is being stepped up.
By Cathy Chan and Alfred Liu @ Bloomberg
— With assistance by Steven Arons, Vinicy Chan, and Chanyaporn Chanjaroen