JPMorgan, Deutsche Bank, Citi Tell London Staff to Stay Home

Deutsche Bank, NatWest Tell London Staff to Work From Home

The City of London could be about to become a ghost town again after firms started telling thousands of staff to work from home in response to the latest U.K. government guidance.

HSBC Holdings Plc told U.K. employees on Thursday afternoon they should return to home-working where possible, according to a spokesperson. Those who still need to work in branches or offices have been asked to take daily Covid-19 tests. 

Deutsche Bank AG is significantly reducing the number of staff working in the office from Monday, according to a person familiar with the matter. The arrangements will be similar to earlier in the pandemic when most staff worked from home, with exceptions for trading teams or those with personal circumstances that require attendance in the office.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. told staff in an internal memo Thursday that it is reassessing “who needs to be coming into the office and who should revert to working from home on a more regular basis.” The bank expects “a reduction in the amount of people coming into our offices, but our buildings will continue to be accessible to all employees who need to come in.” 

These firms employ thousands of staff in the U.K., with Deutsche Bank building a new London headquarters at Moorfields that will open in 2023.

Around the corner from the German firm’s current City outpost on Great Winchester Street, NatWest Group Plc’s Bishopsgate office has already brought new guidance into effect. The British lender “has paused its phased return to the workplace and instructed colleagues to work from home, where possible,” a spokesperson said, although some staff will continue to work in offices and branches for operational, regulatory or personal reasons.

Citi, Barclays

A Citigroup Inc. memo stated that “office workers who can work from home should do so,” but the bank’s London sites will remain fully open for those who “cannot perform their roles effectively from home,” or feel “their health and well-being would benefit from coming into the office.” 

As many as 5,000 staff have been coming into the bank’s Canary Wharf skyscraper on any given day in recent months, the memo said. Those who plan to work from Citi’s offices will need to continue to test each Monday, Wednesday and Friday and show confirmation of their negative results upon arrival.

Office-based staff at Barclays Plc have also been asked to return home, a spokesperson said, although some in customer-facing roles and certain roles in the lender’s corporate and investment bank will “continue to follow their current working patterns.”

Insurance marketplace Lloyd’s of London told staff to “only come into the office to work by exception,” although its underwriting room will “remain open to help facilitate situations where there is a clear need for face-to-face trading,” a spokesperson said.

Standard Chartered Plc told staff to work from home if they can, although the office remains open for those who can’t, echoing similar guidance from law and accountancy firms.

The changes come after U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson tightened pandemic rules to curb the spread of the omicron variant. Starting Monday, the government guidance is to work from home if you can. Even before the rules came in, fears about the variant meant some City workers were increasingly staying away.

The reversal of return-to-work policies is mirrored at some Wall Street firms such as Jefferies Financial Group Inc., which told staff on Wednesday they should stay home and said it will require employees to get a booster for their vaccine by the end of January. 

While the change was expected in London given the rise in case numbers, it’s another blow to the City’s hard-pressed businesses that saw foot traffic fall to near zero during earlier lockdowns. 

“Christmas has been canceled for many City shops, restaurants, pubs and other businesses that rely on footfall from workers in nearby offices,” said Catherine McGuinness, policy chair for the City of London Corporation. “We will urge City businesses, workers and residents to follow the new rules. But we also ask the government to set out a clear road map to normality early in the new year and base all decisions on data.”

It’s not just office work that’s affected. Despite the latest government guidance allowing festive parties, Deutsche Bank is also discouraging work social gatherings, said the person, who asked not to be named discussing information that is not public. HSBC has advised workers planning events to take precautions such as conducting them virtually, split-team attendance or meeting in smaller groups.

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