Business

Due to COVID cases, Jefferies cancels travel and parties, resumes remote working

(Reuters) – Investment bank Jefferies Financial Group (JEF.N) on Wednesday canceled all client parties and most travel, and asked employees to work from home when possible due to a spate of COVID-19 cases.

US banks have been more assertive than other industries in encouraging employees to return to the office although these plans have come under scrutiny again due to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant. Jefferies’ disclosure raised questions about whether other banks would also review plans to return to the office, hide mandates and travel and entertainment policies.

Jefferies, based in midtown Manhattan, called its employees back to the offices in October. The impact of the pandemic has been felt sharply by the bank, as the company’s chief financial officer, Peg Broadbent, died of complications from the coronavirus in March 2020.

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“Our priority now is to provide the best protection for each of you and your families,” Chief Executive Richard Handler wrote in a note seen by Reuters. “As of today, we will be canceling all social and entertainment events until January 3rd.”

The company has more than 40 new cases of COVID-19 this month, including 10 on Tuesday, the note said, adding that very few cases require hospitalization. Handler added that Jefferies was reimposing the mask mandate in all offices, regardless of vaccination status.

The investment bank, which has 3,000 employees worldwide, has offices in Asia and Europe. Handler said in the memo that more than 95% of Jefferies employees are now vaccinated, and all visitors to Jefferies offices should be fully vaccinated.

Most of the major US banks have employees who have been working in offices since the summer. Senior bankers, such as Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon, and Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman, have spoken about the benefits of in-person interaction, especially for younger employees.

So far, US banks are sticking to their current policies on the coronavirus, although sources in the “big six” companies say they are closely monitoring developments. Read more

Goldman Sachs (GS.N), Morgan Stanley (MS.N) and JPMorgan (JPM.N) have brought most workers back into offices on a rotational basis since the summer.

Others, such as Wells Fargo (WFC.N), Citigroup (CN) and Bank of America (BAC.N), have taken a more flexible stance.

Wells Fargo has pushed plans to return to the office into January, while Citigroup employees in New York, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. have been working from the office at least two days a week since Sept. 13.

Most major US banks have also continued to hold holiday parties and client meetings since the Omicron variant was discovered, the sources said, although they require proof of vaccination to attend.

Wells Fargo said Wednesday that it has no company-wide celebrations planned. She added that the parties to the team are subject to the discretion of the individual managers.

In Europe, where Omicron has spread more quickly, some banks have canceled events such as the annual JPMorgan hymns in London and the year-end gala in Paris.

Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.DE) has told its staff in London that they can hold small group gatherings. Asset manager Schroders (SDR.L) and the City of London, which operates London’s historic financial district, are asking guests for quick tests ahead of some festive events. Read more

Some large US companies are also delaying the return to offices date due to the Omicron variant. Read more

Jefferies, who the memo said has seen an attendance rate of up to 60% multiple days globally in recent weeks, said anyone wishing to enter a Jefferies office or event should have a booster vaccination by January 31, unless they are not yet eligible To do that.

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(Reporting by Matt Skovham and Aaron Saldanha), Additional coverage by Noor Zainab Hussain and Sruthi Shankar in Bangalore; Writing by Matt Skovham and Megan Davis; Editing by Edward Tobin and Cynthia Osterman

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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