Oct. 29 (Bloomberg) -- Citigroup Inc. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. are among Wall Street firms that shifted operations to other cities and told staff to work from home as Hurricane Sandy forced evacuations in New York.
Employees at Citigroup, the third-biggest U.S. bank by assets, won’t be able to enter Lower Manhattan offices on Greenwich Street and Wall Street, which include the main trading floor, according to a memo sent to workers and confirmed by Shannon Bell, a spokeswoman. Goldman Sachs, whose corporate headquarters at 200 West St. is also located in an evacuation zone, told the staff in an internal memo that most of them will work from home.
“Given the potential severity of Hurricane Sandy, we have activated our business continuity plans,” Goldman Sachs Chief Administrative Officer Jeffrey Schroeder wrote in a memo to employees yesterday, the contents of which were confirmed by Michael DuVally, a spokesman.
Securities markets canceled trading or closed early today and braced for more shutdowns tomorrow, moving to protect workers as the storm barreled toward New York City with 90-mile-per-hour winds and the threat of an 11-foot sea surge. Banks turned to emergency plans after predictions that the storm could flood parts of the city, including its mass-transit system, which began halting service at 7 p.m. yesterday.
The Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association recommended a full close tomorrow for markets in U.S. dollar-denominated fixed-income securities in the United States, and dollar-denominated government securities in Tokyo and London.
Goldman Sachs, the fifth-biggest U.S. bank by assets and the largest equity trader by revenue, said in its memo that it would shift some activities to London and locations around the world, with some employees working from offices in Greenwich, Connecticut, and Princeton, New Jersey.
Fixed income trading at Goldman Sachs was mostly limited to money markets and ensuring clients had funding they needed to meet obligations that are coming due, said a person familiar with the bank, who declined to be identified because the information is private. Plans may be the same tomorrow, according to the person, who said the West Street office was surrounded by sandbags.
Staff deemed critical may be called upon to report to offices in Lower Manhattan and Jersey City, New Jersey, according to the Goldman Sachs memo. Verisk Analytics Inc., the supplier of actuarial and risk data to lenders and insurers, said its Jersey City headquarters is closed today because of the storm.
Citigroup’s main U.S.-based trading office at 388-390 Greenwich Avenue is included in the city’s mandatory evacuation order, as are some branches and an office at 111 Wall St. according to the bank.
“All staff based in Citi facilities within mandatory evacuation zones must invoke their work-from-home strategies for Monday and Tuesday unless they are in business-critical roles that have established alternative work locations,” according to the staff memo.
More than 20,000 Morgan Stanley employees are affected by the storm, with at least 15,000 of them able to work remotely, Jim Rosenthal, the company’s chief operating officer, said today on Bloomberg Television’s “Market Makers with Erik Schatzker and Stephanie Ruhle.”
The New York City headquarters near Times Square is open, as is an office in Westchester County north of the city, and the firm has provided hotels nearby for staff who need them, Rosenthal said. He added that a lot of employees live near the office and are able to walk to work.
“We are open for business on both the retail and institutional side,” Rosenthal said. “We are transacting business in fixed income in the U.S.” The company hasn’t had to transfer any trading to London, although it is prepared to do so if necessary, he said.
JPMorgan Chase & Co., the biggest U.S. bank, closed all buildings and branches in New York’s Zone A, the mandatory evacuation area, the four main heads of retail and mortgage operations said in an e-mail to the bank’s 160,000 retail employees. Office buildings outside Zone A in the city as well as New Jersey and Delaware are open, though staff won’t be expected to commute if they have safety, transit or child-care issues, they said.
The bank is waiving late fees on credit cards, business and consumer loans including mortgages, and auto and student loans through Oct. 31 in seven states and Washington, according to an e-mailed statement.
Bank of America Corp., the second-biggest U.S. bank by assets, said it closed its offices at Two and Four World Financial Center today as well as all of its New York City branches and Merrill Lynch wealth management offices in New York and the mid-Atlantic markets. The company’s New York City headquarters at One Bryant Park and other office buildings in the city remain open, according to an e-mailed statement.
American Express Co., the credit-card lender with headquarters in Lower Manhattan, shut all its offices in the tri-state region today, according to an e-mail yesterday from Sarah Meron, a spokeswoman. The firm hasn’t disclosed plans for tomorrow, she said.
American International Group Inc., the insurer that counts the U.S. Treasury Department as its largest shareholder, closed its headquarters at 180 Maiden Lane in Lower Manhattan and other offices in the storm’s path. The company has staff capable of handling claims from their homes, if necessary, according to Jim Ankner, a spokesman.
European-based firms including Deutsche Bank AG, Credit Suisse Group AG, UBS AG, and BNP Paribas SA, which have offices outside of the mandatory evacuation zone, made arrangements to provide transportation and hotels for workers.
UBS booked hotels for staff in Manhattan, Stamford, Connecticut, and Weehawken, New Jersey, according to Karina Byrne, a spokeswoman at the Zurich-based bank. Paris-based BNP Paribas told all non-critical workers to work from home and is providing hotel rooms for staff who are reporting to the office, said Cesaltine Gregorio, a New York-based spokeswoman.
Societe Generale SA, France’s second-largest bank by market value, told most of its staff in New York City and New Jersey to stay home, said Jim Galvin, a spokesman for the Paris-based bank.
Credit Agricole SA sent a message to New York staff yesterday telling them to consult with department heads about coming in today, following a series of weekend conference calls held by the Montrouge, France-based bank’s business continuity group, according to Mary Guzman, a spokeswoman in New York.
Vanguard Group Inc. may activate its “Swiss Army” contingency telephone force, a group of employees who are trained to handle client inquiries and transactions, said John Woerth, a spokesman for the Valley Forge, Pennsylvania-based mutual fund firm. Vanguard has offices in Scottsdale, Arizona, that will assist if the Valley Forge office is affected by the storm, Woerth said.
Capital One Financial Corp., the sixth-biggest U.S. bank by deposits, closed its 350 branches in New York and New Jersey today, according to an e-mailed statement. Branches in Virginia, Washington and Maryland were also closed, the McLean, Virginia-based bank said in a separate statement.
Bank of New York Mellon Corp.’s global recovery centers have been activated and teams outside of the region have been put on alert to take on any work needed to provide uninterrupted service to clients, said Ronald Gruendl, a spokesman for the New York-based firm. Two of BNY Mellon’s offices are in the most flood-prone area, and would be closed to comply with a mandatory evacuation, Gruendl said.
Legg Mason Inc. told employees they could work from home, according to Mary Athridge, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore-based money manager. One of Legg Mason’s affiliates, New York-based ClearBridge Advisors, has enabled employees to trade at home, she said.
The New York office of BlackRock Inc., the world’s largest asset manager, is open today mainly for essential personnel, Bobbie Collins, a spokeswoman, said yesterday. The firm has backup for trading from offices in other cities, including San Francisco and Singapore, Collins said.
Blackstone Group LP, the biggest private-equity firm by assets, closed its Park Avenue headquarters today and directed employees to access the company’s system remotely, according to Peter Rose, a spokesman. Washington-based Carlyle Group LP, the second-largest private-equity firm, asked staff at its Manhattan office to “use good judgment in their travels and activities,” said Randall Whitestone, a spokesman.
“We are asset managers, rather than market makers or traders, so working remotely is less of a problem,” Rose said in an e-mail. “We do not think that it will have even a small effect on our business.”
KKR & Co., the private-equity firm run by Henry Kravis and George Roberts, asked employees to work from home, said Kristi Huller, a spokeswoman for the New York-based company. Greenhill & Co., the investment bank founded by Robert Greenhill, is “leaving it to each person’s discretion as to whether they can get in safely or whether they should just work from home,” Chief Executive Officer Scott Bok said via e-mail.
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