City of London braces for coronavirus: Banks, insurers and audit firms activate contingency plans
With health secretary Matt Hancock warning that the UK should prepare for “widespread transmission” of coronavirus, City of London firms have braced for impact.
Banks, insurers, law firms and accountancy giants have dusted off contingency plans, instituted travel bans and cancelled events to try and mitigate the effects of the coronavirus outbreak.
HSBC and Deloitte count coronavirus cases
HSBC today evacuated the floor housing its research department in Canary Wharf after an analyst was diagnosed with the coronavirus.
And Big Four accountancy firm Deloitte said on Tuesday that one of its City of London staff had contracted the Covid-19 virus in Asia. They became one of the 90 confirmed UK cases.
The firm closed a floor of its One New Street Square site overnight on Tuesday for a “deep clean”. But it opted not to close its City of London office.
Chief executive Richard Houston told staff the news was “unsettling”. And the firm is working with Public Health England on its response.
City banks look at Covid-19 backup plans
Goldman Sachs sent staff from its securities division to test its trading set-up in Croydon in recent days. And JP Morgan established a virus recovery site in Basingstoke and has cancelled some meetings as a precaution.
One major US bank said:
Everyone has plans for this sort of thing, we’re just making sure ours work.
The London Stock Exchange (LSE) said staff in Italy and China were working from home. And it has cancelled a number of events due to the spread of the virus.
“LSE has robust business continuity arrangements in place and is implementing measures as needed,” a spokesperson said.
Insurance market Lloyd’s of London said it had “emergency trading protocols” ready to go if its Lime Street headquarters close.
Lloyd’s said in the event of an epidemic it will encourage electronic placing. That will replace the face-to-face trading that still typifies the 330-year-old institution.
City of London-based companies such as asset manager Blackrock, Big Four accountancy firm EY and Spanish bank Santander have banned all non-essential travel.
City of London firms cancel conferences
Magic Circle law firm Linklaters said yesterday it was cancelling its annual conference for its 480 partners in Berlin and would hold the meeting virtually.
Next week’s London Book Fair at the Olympia Centre was cancelled yesterday after major publishers pulled out.
Its organiser Reed Exhibitions said it had cancelled the event “with reluctance”.
City A.M. understands that Cybercon London 2020, a high-level cyber security conference due to be held in the capital later this month, has also been moved to July.
Such cancellations will have a knock-on for hotels and their staff based around the City of London.
Meanwhile, the City’s hospitality sector is facing an uncertain future. Several restaurants suffering a 30 per cent month-on-month drop in bookings.