Banks close as workers struggle to get to their offices

Top News | Bloomberg and Tereza Cai 14 Nov 2019

Bank branches in some districts were closed yesterday amid damage caused by protesters and traffic woes.

All branches of Chiyu Banking Corp, Bank of Communications (HK), DBS Bank (HK), China Construction Bank (Asia) Corp, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (Asia) and Fubon Bank (HK) were closed.

The Hong Kong Association of Banks apologized for the inconvenience to customers. It also recommended customers who need services to call the bank hotlines or visit websites to check their availability.

The association in October condemned the violent acts, which have caused serious damage to some bank branches and ATMs.

Citigroup warned staff to avoid illegal gatherings after police grabbed one of its investment bankers off a sidewalk. As protests raged, firms across the city urged workers to consider staying at home to ensure their families' safety.

In a conference call yesterday, Citigroup told personnel to steer clear of escalating clashes between protesters and police, people familiar with the situation said.

One of its bankers is the person seen in a video that has circulated widely on social media, the people said.

In a flurry of safety memos - which have become a part of daily life at big banks in Hong Kong - executives at several firms expressed heightened caution after skirmishes repeatedly erupted in the streets during work hours this week.

"Where meetings are already planned, managers should not hesitate to cancel and reschedule, depending on the evolution of the situation," BNP Paribas told employees.

Standard Chartered also advised staff to reschedule meetings and travel as appropriate, a Hong Kong-based spokeswoman said in an e-mail.

Firms are trying to operate normally despite intensifying demonstrations.

The main challenge for many bankers and traders is simply getting to work, as protesters impede rush-hour traffic, closing MTR stations and halting bus lines.

Those who made it in have faced tear gas on streets at lunch time and another challenge getting home.

The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation encouraged employees to work remotely if possible and to stay in touch with managers - a message echoed by others.

tereza.cai@singtaonewscorp.com

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