U.S. banks prepare branches for gradual post-coronavirus re-opening

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. banks have been stocking up on masks and other supplies and setting up acrylic barriers to prevent spreading the novel coronavirus as they ready their branches for the country’s gradual reopening, executives and suppliers told Reuters.

FILE PHOTO: A worker cleans the surfaces in a bank amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Chelsea, Massachusetts, U.S., May 20, 2020. REUTERS/Brian Snyder/File Photo

Bank of America Corp BAC.N has installed over 20,0000 acrylic barriers across branches to prepare for more foot traffic as shelter-in-place orders ease, spokesman Matt Card said. The bank requires employees to wear masks, and has stockpiled enough so that each employee receives one a day, he said.

Capital One Financial Corp COF.N is also installing barriers, enhancing deep cleaning protocols, placing social-distance markers for queuing and providing hand sanitizers and masks, said spokeswoman Devon Gunn. It will also provide masks to customers if they arrive without one, she added.

Banks struggled to equip their branches with sufficient supplies at the outset of the crisis, when other essential workers with more crucial jobs – including medical staff, grocery clerks and delivery people – needed them more.

It has become easier to source these materials, executives and suppliers said.

"Now we have a steady supply moving through all of our branches," said JPMorgan Chase & Co JPM.N spokeswoman Anne Pace. The largest U.S. bank is installing acrylic shields at teller stations and cubicles in branches that lacked glass barriers, she said.

Some banks and their employees got creative when supply-lines were tight.

When masks were scarce in March, a group of volunteer Wells Fargo & Co WFC.N employees sewed their own masks and shipped them to colleagues still reporting to the office, according to a bank spokeswoman.

The bank also had issues with cleaning supplies because its orders were rerouted to healthcare workers, Chief Operating Officer Scott Powell said in an interview. But as local manufacturers increased production, the bank rebuilt inventory, he said.

Citizens Financial Group Inc CFG.N ordered hand sanitizer in bulk and divided supplies into mini containers after it could not source the smaller bottles it typically bought, Head of Commercial Banking Don McCree told Reuters.

Toms River, New Jersey-based OceanFirst Bank has stockpiled a few weeks’ worth of PPE as it prepares to open more lobbies in its branches, CEO Chris Maher said.

“We had to cast a wide net, through industry associations, to all sorts of suppliers to source materials for us and frankly we went to some of our customers.”

Reporting by Imani Moise and Anna Irrera; Additional reporting by Elizabeth Dilts Marshall; Editing by Dan Grebler