JPMorgan Chase has begun sending hundreds of its traders and salespeople in New York and London to backup locations as Wall Street girds itself for the coronavirus.
The bank plans on moving approximately half its sales and trading staff in New York and London to a pair of backup locations near each city, retaining the other half at the main headquarters, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. Employees in New York may be sent to offices in Brooklyn or New Jersey, the person said.
"We are starting to shift people as a precautionary measure at this stage, and one that we are beginning now as a way to ensure seamless execution over time," JPMorgan executives said Thursday in a staff memo. "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."
The move is the most high-profile example to date of the steps banks are taking to protect workers and prevent business disruptions amid the coronavirus outbreak. It appears that the virus has begun to impact the industry's employees: in London, HSBC cleared out a section of its Canary Wharf offices after a research department employee fell ill. In the U.S., Amazon and Facebook have both said that workers in Seattle have caught the coronavirus.
Banks have already banned nonessential international travel to areas impacted by the disease and urged employees to make sure they can work from home if needed. In JPMorgan's retail banking operations, for example, the bank is sending 10% of its staffers home in the coming days in preparation for the outbreak.
But sales and trading employees need workstations with robust trading and compliance capabilities, making it harder for them to simply work from home. That's why JPMorgan is relying on splitting up specific business lines among alternate locations, which should help them remain operational if the coronavirus sickens wide swaths of employees.
The bank told employees that their assigned locations will be their daily offices "until further notice" and that they shouldn't mingle with colleagues from separate locations.
There will be "no swapping of members across teams, and no visiting an office that is not your designated office," according to the memo, which was first reported by Reuters. JPMorgan has 55,991 workers in its corporate and investment bank.
Other banks including Goldman Sachs and Citigroup are weighing options including using backup sites and having employees work from home as well, said people with knowledge of the matter.