British and U.S. banks are testing the hardiness of their emergency operating and back-up systems, installing trading screens in employees’ homes, and pressing regulators to ease banking rules so banks can continue to operate without interruption if the coronavirus becomes a health pandemic.
“You don’t want to wake up and find that the U.S. has half a million [virus] cases and someone tells you to send everybody home,” said one U.S. bank executive.
Back-office staffs can work from home with relative ease, but banking regulations make it harder for traders, sales, and customer service workers to do the same.
For example, regulations require traders’ communications to be monitored, so banks are rushing to set up recorded phone lines in a wider variety of locations.
Staff members also are being moved to more places.
Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, and Morgan Stanley are among large international banks that already have sequestered their staffs in Asian areas where the virus has hit hardest.

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