The Swiss stock exchange operator today joined a growing number of financial institutions segregating employees as the industry braces for disruption from the rapidly spreading coronavirus. UBS and Credit Suisse took similar action.
Starting Monday, all SIX teams operating critical platforms, applications and services will be split into at least two locations, a person with knowledge of the matter said. For example, half will continue to come to the office while the other 50 percent will work either from home, in a different building, or even a different city.
The split teams have been told not to meet under any circumstances, including privately, the person said. That includes not visiting company-linked fitness centers or other shared facilities abroad.
Banks in Europe and on Wall Street are activating crisis plans as the virus spreads to more financial centers. For many lenders, it’s their first widescale experience with working from home and serves as an important test of the future of remote work.
UBS, Credit Suisse also splitting up teams
Julian Chan, a spokesman for the operator, confirmed that SIX has put in place emergency procedures requiring at least some staff in all critical departments to work from home. He declined to say how many employees are affected by the new arrangements.
SIX, the backbone of the Swiss financial center, employs some 2,600 people across 20 countries. Most are in the four Swiss cities of Zurich, Olten, Biel and Geneva.
The operator is owned by about 125 domestic and foreign banks. Among them, UBS and Credit Suisse also said they are separating teams in different locations. UBS is introducing the system, which is already in place in Asia, in Switzerland and the U.K.
“We are prepared to implement split operations in other locations across the globe if appropriate,” said spokesman Igor Moser.
Generali’s Swiss subsidiary today ordered employees to work from home until at least March 31. The insurer also barred meetings and other events with more than 10 people.
The European Central Bank, meanwhile, has asked eurozone lenders to review their plans and the actions they can take to stem the spread of the virus. Switzerland’s financial supervisor FINMA said it is in contact with banks “as is customary in such situations” and described the system as “well prepared.”
Although most coronavirus cases have been recorded in China, the virus is spreading worldwide with some 80 countries reporting confirmed cases of the flu-like illness that can lead to pneumonia. Switzerland, which has more than 200 confirmed cases, reported its first death on Thursday, a 74-year-old woman in the canton of Vaud in western Switzerland.