Banks Consider Relocating Staff To Other Financial Hubs

Banks Consider Relocating Staff To Other Financial Hubs Due To Hong Kong’s Strict Quarantine Rules

HONG KONG – The Chinese territory’s stringent measures against COVID-19, which compelled many multinational banks to temporarily close offices and left some staff & their kids stuck in quarantine facilities without internet access, have perturbed the financial industry in Hong Kong, reported Bloomberg on Thursday evening (18 March, SGT).

For instance, a boss from a multinational investment bank said they would consider transferring some employees to other financial hubs if the Chinese territory’s present quarantine rules remain in effect for a long time.

Managers at another international financial firm are also worried that they’ll face difficulties in attracting and retaining foreign talent due to the current policies, while other cities elsewhere have started to ease COVID-19 restrictions as vaccination gains momentum.

As such, there’s a draft letter circulating among industry groups that is urging Hong Kong authorities to act accordingly based on international best practices and announce a clear roadmap for COVID-19 policies.

Today (19 March), government officials will convene a meeting with business groups, including international chambers of commerce, to give an update on the virus outbreak.

“For the US business community, the quarantine has been a great frustration, and we hope the procedures will be changed when the government feels it is safe,” American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) Hong Kong branch President Tara Joseph told Bloomberg.

Notably, Hong Kong’s quarantine rules are among the most stringent in the world. Close contacts of positive cases, including young kids, are required to spend up to 14 days in quarantine facilities even if they test negative. Although one of the facilities is in a Dorsett-brand hotel, the other quarantine centres are spartan. Some don’t even come with Wi-Fi, preventing bankers from working remotely. In comparison, the Singapore government’s policy is for close contacts to only go to quarantine centres if their houses are not suitable for isolation.

Given Hong Kong’s strict policies, an executive with a multinational investment bank fears losing communication with a crucial trading staff or even entire teams if they get quarantined. Other international financial firms also instructed more traders in Hong Kong to work from home to reduce the risk of getting quarantined.

Moreover, due to the stringent testing & cleaning requirements in the Chinese territory, some banks suddenly lost access to their offices, including HSBC’s main branch in Central.

While Hong Kong’s strict approach has helped it contain the overall tally of COVID-19 cases to about 11,000, leaders from the financial community have repeatedly urged the authorities to announce a clear plan showing how quarantine policies will change as more people get inoculated. Others have asked the government for more details on its quarantine protocols.

“What we are really asking for is guidelines on the criteria being used for quarantining and transparency over decision making. Without that, it makes it very hard to engage in secure business planning. Hong Kong is a city based on connectivity and transparency is a crucial aspect of what makes this city tick,” added AmCham’s Joseph.

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