Market participants will get back to work this week. From home.
Employees at Bank of America, Citi and JPMorgan will start 2022 logging in remotely, role permitting, as COVID sweeps across New York.
The state reported nearly 85,500 new cases on Saturday (figure below). For context, that’s 13 times the daily average from just one month ago.
“We are asking that you work from home for the first few weeks of the New Year if you are able to do so,” Citi told employees, in a memo, adding that the bank will “continue to monitor the data.”
Right now, “the data” shows New York State is logging about half as many cases by itself as the entire country averaged during the peak of the Delta wave (figure below).
In the same memo mentioned above, Citi said it would “provide an update in January on when we expect to be back in the office.”
The message was for employees in the New York metropolitan area. If you’re curious as to how acute the situation is in New York City itself, the figure (below) shows the breakdown. It’s mind-boggling.
The city is averaging some 35,000 new cases per day, more than triple any single daily record logged prior to the Omicron wave.
According to The New York Times, though, Omicron may have “met its match” in the obstinate New Yorker. “Even as Omicron has torn through the country in the final weeks of the year, upending everything, setting case records, canceling flights, causing long lines at testing sites, threatening a smooth reopening of school in January, returning us to the devotional of the propane heat lamp, it is hard not to feel for New York an appreciation that is snobbish, imperious, unambivalent,” Ginia Bellafante wrote.
“Snobbish” and “imperious” certainly count among adjectives everyday Americans might be inclined to use when describing Wall Street, although, as one highly amusing Bloomberg article detailed, a sense of existential dread now pervades the ranks of the country’s haughtiest bankers.
“[I]t’s not what you have, it’s how much more you have than everyone else,” Max Abelson wrote, on the way to quoting the chairman of an HFT firm who said, “Everyone compares themselves to those people.” “Those people,” Abelson explained, are “teenagers worth $20 million because they giddily loaded up on crypto.” That reality — that you’re working 18 hours a day, six days a week for a lousy $350,000 while sundry Roaring Kitties are buying M8s with their spare change — “can be hard on the ego,” Abelson remarked.
Coming back to New York City’s collective resilience, the vaccination rate (those who’ve received at least one dose, anyway), “rivals nearly any place on earth,” Bellafante declared, noting the 92% rate “was achieved before a mandate requiring private-sector employers to have their workers immunized went into effect this week.” Further, Bellafante observed that “mask wearing on the subway and even on the street where you don’t have to cover your face — unless you are avoiding cloud bursts of weed smoke or the cold — is robust.”
As for Wall Street, the defiant attitude among executives at some firms continues to collide with the reality of a more transmissible strain. Boosters are now mandatory at Goldman, and may soon be compulsory at the house of Dimon, unless you’re inclined to be tested twice per week as a condition for entering an office you don’t want to be at in the first place.
In a memo to employees just prior to Christmas, JPMorgan suggested staff “exercise caution and good judgment.” Or at least as it relates to COVID.