UPDATE 1-Banks send more staff home and to secondary locations as virus spreads

Lawrence White and Iain Withers


* More banks send staff home as virus spreads in London

* Lenders cancel travel, split up trading teams

* Pragmatism reigns as some hedge fund staff return to work (Adds Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, Jefferies plans)

LONDON, March 6 (Reuters) - More than 50 staff at Societe Generale's London office were working from home on Friday, while Bank of America Corp is splitting its trading force and sending 100 New York-based staff to nearby Stamford, Connecticut, from Monday as a precautionary measure against the spread of coronavirus, sources familiar with the matter said.

Morgan Stanley is shifting part of its London-based sales and trading staff to its site in Heathrow starting on Monday, according to sources familiar with the plans.

The three banks join other financial companies sending staff home, splitting up trading teams and activating backup offices in a bid to contain the spread of the virus in the world's largest financial and business hubs.

The moves come as the coronavirus outbreak continues to spread globally, with the number of people infected across the world surpassing 100,000 on Friday.

The outbreak has killed more than 3,400 people and spread across more than 90 nations, with six countries reporting their first cases on Friday.

Societe Generale declined to comment on how many staff were working away from its office in Canary Wharf but said it has instituted travel restrictions, rotation of staff and working from home arrangements.

Commodity broker Marex Spectron said late on Thursday that one of its London employees had tested positive for coronavirus. It said the individual had attended a Marex Spectron-sponsored event during IP week, a major petroleum industry gathering, on Feb. 25 in London.

Citigroup has sent 10% of traders who usually work in its Canary Wharf office to a backup site in Lewisham, a source familiar with the move said.

Allied Irish Banks has cancelled a planned post-results roadshow to London as a result of a ban on non-essential travel and has conducted a deep clean of all branches, Chief Executive Colin Hunt said in a radio interview.

"Earlier this week we introduced a ban on all non-essential travel across the group, that's one of the reasons why I'm talking to you this morning from Dublin and not London," he said.

Jefferies Financial Group Inc executives told clients on Friday it had put in place business continuity and technology plans to enable it to conduct business remotely.

"Those plans include both the technology to continue to trade and the technology that will permit us to continue to communicate seamlessly with each other, with you, with our regulators, and with our partners and affiliates," the email said.

HSBC and Standard Chartered have also convened committees of senior executives to give daily briefings on the crisis.


The mood among financial firms was more practical than panicked, despite the growing number of confirmed cases.

"Had a few hedge funds that went into full shutdown on Monday because of coronavirus but then realised they were over-reacting and went back into the office later in the week," said one hedge fund recruiter.

Staff in coffee shops in the Canary Wharf financial district said business is down, but that they hoped for only a short-lived disruption to normal customer traffic.

"We expect it to be quieter for the next few days," said a worker named Tahar in a Starbucks in Canary Wharf.

An employee in a branch of the Notes coffee chain in the financial area said business was down compared with the usually busy Friday rush.

"People just want to be safe I guess. We are hoping things pick up soon," she said. (Reporting By Lawrence White and Iain Withers, additional reporting by Pamela Barbaglia, Clara Denina and Maiya Keidan in London, Padraic Halpin in Dublin, Imani Moise and Elizabeth Dilts in New York; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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