Monday 21 June 2021 11:47 am

Hong Kong races ahead of London and New York in bid to get bankers back in the office

Bankers and dealmakers working in Hong Kong are far more likely to be office-bound than their colleagues in London or New York as global banks offer days off and on-site vaccinations to lure staff away from remote working.

Hong Kong also has relatively few daily Covid-19 cases compared to London or New York, which still register hundreds per day.

Morgan Stanley has more than 70 per cent of its staff back at their desks in the Asian financial hub, while between 60 and 70 per cent of Credit Suisse workers are in their office, said bankers who work there to Reuters.

A Citi spokesman said three quarters of the bank’s staff were in the workplace in Hong Kong.

JP Morgan plans to reach that same office occupancy in the coming weeks, while its London staff do week-on, week-off in the office.

Bank of America, which until recently had most of its staff working from home, aims to reach full office capacity in Hong Kong by the end of this month, their bankers said.

Jabbed on the job

Morgan Stanley set up an on-site vaccination operation on 16 June 16 for staff who had not received any shot, according to people who work there. The bank will do it again in three weeks so people can get their second shot, one of the employees said.

Most banks are offering two days off for employees who get vaccinated, in line with a government policy, to encourage staff to get inoculated and hasten their return to office.

Citi will host its first onsite vaccine clinic for Hong Konfg staff on 22 June, the spokesman said.

Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, JPMorgan and Bank of America declined to comment.

At UBS, up to 60 per cent of its Hong Kong workforce were back in the office, a spokesman told Reuters.

At these levels, occupancy at the Hong Kong offices of many of these banks will be ahead of the rates in New York and London where daily virus cases are still in the hundreds.

Hong Kong has recorded only one daily case on an average in the past week, while 28.5 per cenrt of its population has received at least one vaccine shot, government data showed.

London and New York have higher rates of vaccination, but the UK capital has also seen a wave of new infections.

Benefits

Returning to the workplace will allow bankers to attend in-person meetings and help secure more deals in a market where mergers and underwriting deals are set to pick up pace.

While banks are looking to bring workers back to office, some are retaining a flexible approach.

An HSBC spokeswoman said the bank’s Hong Kong headquarters was now open for all staff to return but that people could choose between working from office and home.

“I hated working from home,” said a sales banker at HSBC. “I missed being able to chat with my colleagues all the time for leads and gossips. It was not fun at all at home.”

Standard Chartered said two-thirds of its bankers were back in office but that it too remains flexible. Hong Kong is its single largest market.

The bankers Reuters spoke to declined to be named as they were not authorised to speak to the media.

Goldman Sachs is also encouraging all staff members to get vaccinated in the Hong Kong office, a spokesman said.

“Since we reopened the office to all staff on 7 June, the number of employees coming to the office every day is at pre-Covid levels, or higher if you consider that travel is way down,” he said.

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