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Banks Implement Remote Working in Response to COVID-19

Mutual of Omaha takes measures to protect staff after virus case, while other banks announce remote working action

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  • Written by  Banking Exchange staff
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Banks Implement Remote Working in Response to COVID-19

Mutual of Omaha has closed its head office after a staff member tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus.

The Nebraska banking group advised its employees in its Omaha office to “continue working remotely until further notice” after a case was reported on March 12.

It said an employee who “works in a relatively isolated area within the home office” had tested positive. It closed the office on March 13 for deep cleaning and disinfecting, while other staff who had come into close contact with the individual were self-isolating.

Approximately 4,200 people work at Mutual of Omaha’s head office.

“All critical company functions, including claims and customer service, are operational,” the company said in a statement. It also said it would continue to pay staff who were unable to work from home.

“This is a dynamic situation, and we are responding to protect our associates, our customers, our company and our community,” said James Blackledge, Mutual of Omaha’s chairman and CEO.

“We are strong. We are resilient. And we care about our customers and each other. That is how we have managed through every challenge in our 110-year history, and that is how we will meet today’s challenges.”

US Banks Act to Protect Staff

Elsewhere, a number of other banks have taken action to protect staff and reduce the risk of the virus spreading, including stepping up work-from-home initiatives and banning or restricting travel.

USAA has closed its office in West Point, New York “for the foreseeable future”, it said in a statement last week. It is also “evaluating our other financial center locations”.

The bank has also made changes to its sick pay arrangements, promising full pay to those who are unable to work from home for up to two weeks and waiving healthcare expenses related to COVID-19 testing, diagnosis and treatment.

State Farm said it was “working quickly” on tools to allow most of its employees to work from home after deciding to shut a number of its offices “out of an abundance of caution”.

Silicon Valley Bank has implemented existing business continuity plans and shifted to a work-from-home plan for the “majority” of staff, while also banning international travel and limiting domestic travel.

Deutsche Bank has taken similar measures in across its global operations, CEO Christian Sewing said in a letter to staff.

“We have implemented appropriate measures in line with the situation on the ground or in the respective area of the bank,” he said. “Many teams have switched to split mode, while others are partially relying on staff working from home. We have reduced business travel to a minimum and have cancelled large-scale events…

“If we take these precautions, I am confident that we will manage this situation together. We have devised comprehensive crisis plans, we have the discipline, and we have the financial strength to manage through this period. First and foremost, however, we have you. And all of you have proven time and again that we stand together and deliver outstanding performance when faced with complex challenges.”

Other groups including BNY Mellon, US Bank and Raymond James have also implemented remote working policies and cut travel.

Meanwhile, the eight financial services companies that make up the Financial Services Forum collectively announced they were suspending their share buyback programs until at least the end of the second quarter of 2020.

Bank of America, BNY Mellon, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, State Street, and Wells Fargo together announced the measure last week.

The banks said in a joint statement: “The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented challenge for the world and the global economy and the largest US banks have an unquestioned ability and commitment to supporting our customers, clients and the nation.

“The decision on buybacks is consistent with our collective objective to use our significant capital and liquidity to provide maximum support to individuals, small businesses, and the broader economy through lending and other important services. The decision is consistent with actions by the Federal Reserve, the administration, and the congress.”

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