Banks in Singapore close branches, beef up WFH ahead of Covid-19 ‘circuit-breaker’ restrictions

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Banks in Singapore close branches, beef up WFH ahead of Covid-19 ‘circuit-breaker’ restrictions

Banks in Singapore are closing branches and making even more staff work from home this week as tougher safe distancing laws kick in.

Under Singapore’s new ‘circuit-breaker’ laws, designed to reduce local transmissions of Covid-19, the finance sector is considered an essential service and is exempt from a requirement to close workplaces from 7 April to 4 May. But while the Monetary Authority of Singapore says all financial institutions will continue to operate during this period, staffing on their premises will be reduced to a minimum.

Banks in Singapore have introduced remote working for many non-branch roles over the past two months, but some are expanding these arrangements in light of Singapore’s new restrictions on movement. We understand that Goldman Sachs and Nomura have now told all non-critical Singapore staff to work from home. The two firms declined to comment. At Goldman (and most other investment banks), ‘critical’ office-based employees are mainly in trading and operations jobs.

A spokesperson for Deutsche says all but a “small number of employees in select roles” are working from home in Singapore

We also understand that most UBS employees in Singapore are already working from home and this is now set to continue over the medium term. Only a small amount of critical – primarily trading-related – roles require UBS staff to be on site. Like other banks, UBS has recently stepped up its precautionary measures for office-based employees, such as ensuring safe-distancing between workstations, providing masks, imposing staggered starting times, and discouraging face-to-face meetings. The bank did not comment.

Standard Charted has “measures in place” to ensure office staff can work safely, “from staggered working hours, to frequent cleaning of office premises”, says a spokesperson. If you’re in a critical job yourself, the Ministry of Health said in a statement on Friday that “social interactions, including during meal times, must be avoided”.

Meanwhile, some of the banks with a retail presence in Singapore are shuttering branches during the circuit-breaker period, which may be extended beyond 4 May if the spread of the virus is not controlled.

Citi is closing four branches and revising opening hours for its remaining locations, according to a statement from the US bank. OCBC is closing 22 branches, with 24 staying open. “We remain open and available to our customers and counterparties in Singapore and globally,” says a spokesperson.

Photo by Victor He on Unsplash

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