HK banks tell staff: Cancel meetings, watch family, be safe

HSBC encourages employees to work remotely if possible. (Bloomberg pic)

HONG KONG: Safety memos have become a part of daily life at big banks in Hong Kong but the latest edition are expressing an even higher level of caution as violence escalates, sometimes on streets directly outside office doors.

“Where meetings are already planned, managers should not hesitate to cancel and reschedule depending on the evolution of the situation,” BNP Paribas SA told employees Wednesday.

Like others, it’s been urging staff concerned about commuting safely to consider working from home.

At JPMorgan Chase & Co’s main Hong Kong offices, where some of this weeks’ worst clashes between pro-democracy protesters and police have taken place steps away, employees were reminded to feel empowered to make arrangements “in circumstances that require flexibility (e.g. family needs, school closures, transport issues.)”

“I wanted to make sure that it was well understood given the circumstances,” Filippo Gori, the New York-based bank’s chief executive officer of Hong Kong operations, wrote in the memo.

“Thank you for pulling together and supporting each other, and our clients, during what has been a difficult period in the city.”

Across the financial hub, firms are trying to operate normally despite intensifying demonstrations since a student died Friday of injuries sustained near a protest.

The main challenge for many bankers and traders is simply getting to work, as some schools shut and protesters impede rush-hour traffic, closing subway stations and halting bus lines.

Those who made it in have faced tear gas on streets at lunch and another challenge getting home.

HSBC Holdings Plc encouraged employees to work remotely if possible and to stay in touch with managers – a message echoed by others.

“All staff should exercise due care while commuting, remain vigilant of their surroundings and check travel plans before leaving for the office,” Deutsche Bank AG told employees in a text message.