Banks in Asia aren’t just taking immediate action if one of their employees is diagnosed with the COVID-19 coronavirus – a staff member having close contact with infected people is enough to trigger a rapid response.
HSBC has imposed new precautionary measures after being informed last night that a Hong Kong-based staff member is under government quarantine (for medical surveillance) because they have been in close contact with relatives infected with the illness. It is not known whether the employee has received a diagnosis yet.
A spokesperson for HSBC in Hong Kong says the firm has started its own internal contact tracing. “As a precautionary measure, we are contacting members of staff, who may have recently come into close contact with this individual, and will ask them to stay home for 14 days,” she explains. “Our first priority and concern is the health and well-being of our employees.”
The employee, whose name has not been released, has had no contact with clients in the past 14 days and has been under “self-care at home” since Wednesday, according to the spokesperson. The most recent days they worked on level 14 of HSBC’s Queen’s Road Central main building were 30 and 31 January, and 3 February. They also worked on floor two of HSBC’s Tseung Kwan O office between 4 and 11 February. Neither of these areas are client facing.
The areas where the employee normally sits were immediately and thoroughly “cleaned and disinfected”, with particular attention given to “public spaces” such as pantries. “The whole building continues to be regularly cleaned as part of our efforts around daily hygiene,” says the HSBC spokesperson.
The bank will continue to closely monitor the development of the case and stay in close contact with health authorities. It will also introduce “additional precautionary arrangements as necessary” to safeguard the health of staff, customers and visitors. “All employees have been reminded to be mindful of hygiene procedures and to stay at home or see a doctor if they feel unwell in any way. We are encouraging flexible working, including working from home, where possible,” adds the spokesperson.
HSBC is not the only bank in Asia to be monitoring specific employees. On Wednesday DBS evacuated the 43rd floor of its headquarters in Singapore after announcing that a staff member had tested positive for the virus. An employee of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group has been quarantined at home in Hong Kong after a family member was suspected of having the coronavirus, Bloomberg reported yesterday. While the employee is not infected, other colleagues in the Quarry Bay office have also been quarantined until further notice as a precautionary measure.
HSBC publishes its 2019 results on 18 February. Interim CEO Noel Quinn is expected to announce further investment in Asia, driven by cost cuts made elsewhere, but he is also expected to comment on how the coronavirus will impact the bank’s bottom line in 2020. Banking sector revenue in Hong Kong is predicted to be “very weak” in the first half, according to Morgan Stanley analysts.
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