Citigroup halts plan to bring staff back to work in 13 US states

Bank will delay bringing workers back in Texas, Florida, South Dakota, Idaho and other areas where infection rates are still high

(FILES) In this file photo The Citibank Corporate Office & Headquarters is viewed in midtown Manhattan July 14, 2014.   Citigroup reported a steep decline in first-quarter profits on April 15, 2020 as it set aside around $7 billion in case of loan defaults due to coronavirus shutdown. Net profit came in at $2.5 billion for the quarter ending March 31, down 46 percent from the year-ago period. Revenues rose 12 percent to $20.7 billion. / AFP / Timothy A. CLARY

Citigroup is pulling back on plans for returning employees to offices across the US as coronavirus cases surge in many states.

The bank will delay bringing back a small percentage of office workers in 13 states, including Texas, South Dakota, Idaho and Florida. Citigroup is still planning to return about 5 per cent of employees to offices in much of the US Northeast, including New York.

“We have always said our plans to return to the office would prioritise the health and safety of our colleagues and be centred around data not dates,” Citigroup said in an emailed statement. “Consistent with that, we delayed our return to a number of sites across the US given the health data in those locations.”

The changes come after infectious-disease expert Anthony Fauci told a Senate panel on Tuesday that the US is “going in the wrong direction” in its efforts to contain the novel coronavirus, and that new Covid-19 cases could more than double to 100,000 a day if behaviours don’t change.

Several southern and western states are seeing surging numbers of new cases, prompting some to put reopening plans on hold. Hospitalisations have increased in 12 states, with Florida’s Miami-Dade County reporting its highest numbers of hospitalisations, intensive-care unit patients and ventilator use in at least two months, and ICUs in Houston hitting 97 per of normal capacity on Tuesday.

“None of the jobs need to be back right away,” Citigroup president Jane Fraser said at a Bloomberg conference last week. Employees “will largely decide for themselves whether they want to stay at home, how they feel about their commute, what’s going to happen with childcare”.

JPMorgan Chase corporate workers in the New York metropolitan area will be going back to offices this month, with no more than 20 per cent returning before the second week of September, the bank said in a memo last week. The bank also has made plans to bring back workers in Columbus, Ohio.

Goldman Sachs Group brought back an initial group of employees to its major US locations on June 22. In cities with large coronavirus outbreaks, the bank is monitoring the situation as it begins to enact its office-return plan, a spokeswoman said. In the US, aside from its New York headquarters, the firm has large hubs in Utah and Texas.

Jefferies Financial Group chief executive Richard Handler said earlier this week that his traders and bankers are under no pressure to return anytime soon.

“I am in awe of how our people became a virtual firm within days of learning about Covid-19,” Mr Handler said in a phone interview on Monday. “Our people will work from home until they feel safe coming back.”

On Wednesday, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio postponed a planned reopening of indoor dining next week, citing the surge in coronavirus infections in other states. He said outdoor dining would continue in the city.