U.S. banks sticking to decision to make employees return tooffice

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Aug 5 - Wall Street's biggest banks are sticking to their decision to make employees return to the office in the coming weeks even as public health officials around the globe warn about the aggressive nature of COVID - 19 Delta variant.

The new variant is sparking unvaccinated fears even among vaccinated lawyers and bankers and investment managers, that they might be bringing home harm to unvaccinated children after a day in the office in Manhattan.

By making our families and children return to the office, you are essentially putting them at risk, said one person on a company-wide conference call where employees could ask questions and air potential grievances about returning to the office, according to another participant.

After having quickly adapted to working remotely as the pandemic spread last year, many firms on Wall Street are ready to return their staff, if only for a portion of the week. For many that means a return to high-speed elevators and commuter trains starting next month.

Now a new kind of fear is creeping in when many Wall Street executives heaved a sigh of relief following the imminent availability of vaccines in the US.

A lot of people are not commuting into the city right now and so the New York suburbs have become a new meeting place that has never existed before but where you can efficiently arrange a lot of face to face meetings now, said Jonathan Litt, whose hedge fund Land Buildings Investment Management concentrates on real estate.

If you drive 10 minutes, have lunch and then go home, Litt, whose hedge fund moved to nearby Connecticut more than a decade ago, said.

Some lawyers and bankers have told colleagues that they would not be returning to their Manhattan offices in the foreseeable future for fear of catching the highly transmissible new strain and carrying it home to children under 12 who have not been cleared to receive the COVID - 19 vaccine.

Several said the mood among many parents of young children has changed in the last two days, the latest twist in a saga that saw many of them flee their New York offices in March 2020 only to make a tentative return earlier this summer.

I thought we were past this and things were getting better, but they are clearly not, said another executive who asked not to be identified for fear of angering his employer like the half dozen contacted for this story.

At the major banks, the policies, for now, are to hold the course with some giving a harder stance on vaccines.

Morgan Stanley's staff and clients will not be allowed to enter the New York offices of the bank if they are not fully vaccinated, a source said.

Goldman Sachs has had a vaccine status reporting requirement in place since June 10, a spokesperson said, adding that unvaccinated individuals are required to submit to regular, weekly testing and wear a mask.

A spokesperson for Wells Fargo Co said the bank has plans for a planned return to office for its U.S. employees that would begin in September.

The spokesperson said that we are continuing to monitor the data and will adjust as needed.

A banker in JPMorgan Chase Co told Reuters Fear is rising, but speculated that the bank won't make any changes after CEO Jamie Dimon was among the first senior executives to bring his workforce back. JPMorgan declined to comment on any changes to its back office plans.

The largest U.S. bank had said it would bring its employees back to the office in July on rotational basis.