Salem Radio Network News Sunday, September 26, 2021

Business

Wall Street sticks with back to office plans as Delta variant sparks fears

By Svea Herbst-Bayliss and Noor Zainab Hussain

(Reuters) -Wall Street’s biggest banks are sticking by their decisions to make employees return to the office in the coming weeks even as public health officials around the globe warn about the aggressive nature of COVID-19’s Delta variant.

The new variant is sparking new fears even among vaccinated lawyers and bankers and investment managers that they might be bringing home harm to unvaccinated children after a day at the office in Manhattan.

“By making us come back to the office, you are essentially putting our families and children at risk,” said one person on a company-wide conference call where employees could ask questions and air potential grievances about returning to the office, according to another participant.

After having hastily adapted to working remotely as the pandemic spread last year, many firms on Wall Street are ready to bring their staff back, if only for a portion of the week. For many that means a return to commuter trains and high-rise office buildings’ elevators starting next month.

But now a new kind of fear is creeping in after many Wall Street executives heaved a sigh of relief following the ready availability in the United States of vaccines.

“A lot of people are not commuting into the city right now and so the New York suburbs have become a new meeting place that never existed before but where you can efficiently arrange a lot of face to face meetings now,” said Jonathan Litt, whose hedge fund Land & Buildings Investment Management concentrates on real estate.

“You drive 10 minutes, have lunch and then you go home,” Litt, whose hedge fund moved out of Manhattan to nearby Connecticut more than a decade ago, said.

Some lawyers and bankers have told colleagues that they would not be returning to their Manhattan offices in the foreseeable future for fear of catching the highly transmissible new strain and carrying it home to children under the age of 12 who have not been cleared to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Several said the mood among many parents of young children has changed in the last two days, the latest twist in a saga that saw many of them flee their New York offices in March 2020 only to make a tentative return earlier this summer.

The shift coincides with New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s call on Tuesday that all people who wish to eat indoors at restaurants, exercise at gyms or see performances in New York must soon show that they have been vaccinated.

“I thought we were past this and things were getting better, but they are clearly not,” said another executive, who like the half dozen contacted for this story asked not to be identified for fear of angering his employer.

At the major banks, the policies, for now are to hold the course with some taking a harder stance on vaccines.

Morgan Stanley’s staff and clients will not be allowed to enter the bank’s New York offices if they are not fully vaccinated, a source said.

Goldman Sachs has had a vaccine status reporting requirement in place since June 10, a spokesperson said, adding that unvaccinated individuals are required to submit to regular, weekly testing and wear a mask.

A spokesperson for Wells Fargo & Co said the bank had plans for a phased return to offices for its U.S. employees that would begin in September.

“We are continuing to closely watch the data and will adjust as needed,” the spokesperson said.

A banker at JPMorgan Chase & Co told Reuters “fear is rising”, but speculated the bank won’t make any changes after CEO Jamie Dimon was among the first senior executives to bring back his workforce. JPMorgan declined to comment on any changes to its back-to-office plans.

The largest U.S. bank had said it will bring its employees in the United States back to the office on a rotational basis from July.

(Reporting by Noor Zainab Hussain in Bengaluru and Svea Herbst-Bayliss in New York; additional reporting by Niket Nishant; editing by Richard Pullin)

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