Morgan Stanley, the bank that took the toughest stance on getting employees back to the office this summer, is now encouraging a chunk of its top producers to stay home for the remainder of the year because of a surge in COVID-19, Fox Business has learned.
Morgan Stanley's New York area brokers are being encouraged to work remotely until January 3rd, per a memo that was sent out by management on Wednesday evening.
The new policy, as first reported by Fox Business, states:
"Between now and Jan 3rd, 2022" brokers should "work remotely… limit business get-togethers" because of an uptick in COVID-19 in the city. The firm is also asking employees to contact the company’s HR COVID-19 Response Line if they experience symptoms or come into contact with someone who has contracted the virus.
Morgan Stanley isn’t the first of the Wall Street banks to encourage the remote work as Covid cases spike, but it was among those earlier in the year taking a hard-line approach in getting employees back in the office.
Chief Executive James Gorman made headlines when he spoke at an investing conference in June where he said he would be "very disappointed" if employees were not back in the office by Labor Day. Gorman walked back his comments earlier this week, admitting his timeline was wrong and that he believes we’ll still be dealing with the virus through most of next year.
A Morgan Stanley spokeswoman declined comment.
Despite the more than 90% vaccination rate among Wall Street workers, Citigroup is prodding workers to stay at home for the foreseeable future, as is the firm UBS. Citi, Jefferies, boutique investment bank LionTree and the New York Stock Exchange have all canceled their annual office holiday parties as an extra precaution against the rapidly-spreading Omicron Covid variant, Fox Business has learned.
Goldman Sachs does not hold an office-wide company party but it has ordered its New York departments to cancel their individual holiday parties as well, Fox Business has learned. JP Morgan and Goldman are also weighing whether to impose policies that would allow workers to remain out of the office amid the COVID surge.
Like Morgan Stanley, senior management at JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs have, until recently, been urging employees to return to the office. CEOs Jamie Dimon and David Solomon believe that office work makes executives more productive. In addition, Wall Street banks are heavily regulated, and it’s tough to keep tabs on employees when they’re working remotely.
"We may have to take a step back," said one JPMorgan executive.
COVID-19 cases in New York City are jumping, with the positivity rate doubling over the past three days and 2,899 confirmed cases each day over the past week, according to the NYC Department of Health.
The mad rush to test for the virus has put a significant strain on the city’s testing supplies, forcing many New Yorkers to wait in line for hours to get swabbed.