(Yicai Global) March 24 -- As the number of Covid-19 cases surged in Shanghai this spring, the city’s financial sector has been under pressure to find ways to maintain normal operations and keep its vital services going.
Many managers and traders at fund management firms in Shanghai and Shenzhen have voluntarily been camping in their offices by bringing in sleeping bags and working shifts to avoid any disruption from pandemic-related restrictions.
China’s major financial hubs have been hit hard by the recent outbreak, according to a March 22 report by Bloomberg News. So traders and senior staff have responded by taking turns to stay in their firms to ensure that communication between teams and placement of orders are not affected, Yicai Global learned in interviews with Chinese and overseas managers at asset management firms and banks.
Many commercial banks have strengthened their financial support measures during this outbreak. For instance, some have enhanced loan issuance in key sectors for pandemic prevention and control. They have also set up emergency green channels for businesses in the frontline of the battle against Covid-19 by adopting a “review-upon-arrival” model.
Sleeping Bag Duty
This wave of Covid-19 has coincided with severe swings in the global market and the dual shock has been hard for asset management firms to cope with.
China International Fund Management told Yicai Global that it has instituted various special measures. The firm has taken to combining telecommuting with in-office work to make sure that the departments in charge of investment, transactions, settlement and information technology can run smoothly. The firm’s IT department has also initiated a contingency plan to prepare for and support employees’ home-based working while ensuring 24/7 online tech support and network security.
The Shanghai-based company has provided all its staff with anti-pandemic items such as facial masks, disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizers, as well as preparing daily-life items such as camp beds, sleeping bags, instant foods and toiletries to deal with restrictions during the duration of the outbreak.
A fund manager at ABC-CA Fund Management said he had not left the office since March 17, and still did not know when he could go home. “l choose to stay right now. The number of people who can leave their home is getting fewer as more residential communities are getting locked down due to Covid-19.
But this is the choice anyone in this company will make during such a difficult time, because we all want to ensure smooth and steady operations,” he added.
A source at a European asset management firm told Yicai Global that “even though the information technology system has allowed fund managers to place orders remotely after two years of the pandemic, most traders and managers still choose to stay at the company for the sake of convenience and efficiency of team work."
Shanghai’s Pudong district reported over 600 local Covid-19 cases over the three days though March 22. The district is home to a large number of overseas and domestic banks as well as the Shanghai Stock Exchange. Some companies have closed their office buildings to help control the pandemic, but some allow staff to return to the office once they have negative test results.
Shanghai Tower, where companies like US investment bank J.P. Morgan Chase and US credit rating agency Fitch Ratings have offices, was locked down last week.
Commercial banks have also played a role in stabilizing the business environment amid the resurgence of Covid-19.
Lai Changgeng, chief executive and president of BNP Paribas China, told Yicai Global that when the bank launched pandemic prevention and control measures, it also ensured that orderly financial services could be guaranteed.
“Our frontline account managers and sales departments are making efforts to help customers solve problems and provide services during this period, and the technical department has fully mobilized digital infrastructure to ensure the security of remote information,” Lai said.
“The middle and back-office departments have also arranged for employees to stay in the office building and at backup sites to continue their work and ensure the safe, orderly and stable running of the bank,” Lai noted, adding that the lender has also instituted a work-from-home system.
Commercial banks are a vital support for the real economy. The Shanghai branch of Bank of Communications increased credit loans in key sectors for pandemic prevention and control, Yicai Global learned.
For example, Jiema Biomedical Technology, a test provider, took the initiative to extend the sampling service time to relieve the pressure of testing at medical institutions in Shanghai, so BOCOM’s Shanghai branch granted it a credit line of CNY10 million (USD1.6 million) to buy test reagents.
In addition, the micro, small, and mid-sized businesses that have been hit hard by the pandemic need to stabilize their operations. Shanghai Huancheng Catering Management, which offers fruit and vegetable-based light meals, has suffered a big capital impact during the pandemic, so the BOCOM's Shanghai branch raised its credit line by CNY1 million (USD156,900).
The move was approved in only two weeks, effectively solving a major problem for the company. For small and micro firms that have run into temporary difficulties during the pandemic, BOCOM said it will help them to continue operations by increasing loans based on their specific situations.
Editor: Tom Litting