Canadian banks separating trading staff amid novel coronavirus concerns

TORONTO — Canada’s biggest financial institutions are making sweeping changes to their trading operations to protect against a novel form of coronavirus, which one bank confirmed it has already faced in its workforce.

Bank of Montreal, Toronto-Dominion Bank, Royal Bank of Canada, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, National Bank of Canada and Laurentian Bank spokespeople told The Canadian Press on Monday they were taking action, including splitting up their trading operations across the globe, as a precautionary measure.

The changes were prompted by the virus known as COVID-19, which has so far killed one Canadian, infected 60 people in the country and spread to hundreds of thousands more globally.

Their decisions come after RBC said it learned last week of a possible case of COVID-19 impacting one floor of its Meadowvale office complex in Mississauga, Ont. The case has since been confirmed by public health officials and RBC spokesperson Gillian McArdle said the infected individual has been at home in self-isolation.

“As a precautionary measure, we immediately advised employees who work on the same floor to self-quarantine until further notice, and we immediately undertook a disinfection of the impacted floor and in all common areas, including elevators, cafeteria and washrooms,” McArdle said in an email to The Canadian Press.

The bank also decided to split its global trading business connected to its Toronto, New York and London locations.

“This is a precautionary measure to ensure we are able to smoothly and seamlessly continue serving our clients,” McArdle said. “We recently tested these processes globally and the tests were successful.”

BMO spokesperson Julie Smithers said her bank was following suit with its operations in Canada, the U.S., London and Asia.

The move was part of the bank’s business continuity plan, which it is testing on an ongoing basis, Smithers added.

“There is no impact to trading operations and we continue to serve our clients as we always do,” she added.

TD Bank Group’s Lynsey Wynberg also said in an email that TD Securities has moved to a “split-site model” for its traders out of “an abundance of caution.”

Meanwhile, CIBC is still in the process of moving “some” of its trading floor staff on Monday.

The bank’s spokesperson Jessica Steinberg said in an email that staff members in Toronto and New York will move this week to backup work locations.

Claude Breton of the National Bank of Canada also said that his company was readying for COVID-19 across its trading operations in Toronto, Montreal, Calgary.

“We have a full set of measures, depending on the location, be it splitting our teams, moving to back-up sites or working remotely for some functions,” he said, in an email.

“There is strong redundancy between the Canadian trading floors, a long-dating practice at National Bank.”

Laurentian said it is “actively implementing” measures from its contingency plans, including separating business units across multiple locations. The bank has also introduced restrictions on business travel, said assistant vice-president for communications Helene Soulard in an email. “As the situation evolves, the organization will continue to deploy appropriate tactics,” she said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 9, 2020.

Companies in this story: (TSX:BNS, TSX:BMO, TSX:TD, TSX:NA, TSX:LB)

Tara Deschamps, The Canadian Press

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