Citigroup and Wells Fargo restrict all cross border travel as coronavirus spreads

(Reuters) - Citigroup Inc and Wells Fargo & Co have restricted all cross-border travel by employees in response to the rapidly spreading coronavirus outbreak.

Citi’s policy expands travel restrictions put in place last week as the virus, which has no known vaccine or cure, spread from Asia to some European countries. The decision comes one day after government officials announced the first confirmed case of the virus in New York City, where Citigroup is headquartered.

“We have local and regional contingency plans in place and we have well-established business continuity plans for the firm,” a bank spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “We will continue to monitor the situation and adjust our operations as necessary in order to provide the safest possible work environment for our colleagues.”

At Wells Fargo, non-essential international travel is prohibited and essential travel must be approved by a member of the Operating Committee or a direct report, according to an internal memo viewed by Reuters.

Banks have been working closely with regulators since January when the virus started spreading across China to stem any disruption to the financial system. Emergency planning committees have been meeting daily to evaluate the potential risks to markets and employees, sources said.

On Friday, Citigroup said it had restricted business travel in all Asian countries and Italy, and has asked employees who have visited affected areas to work from home for 14 days. The bank has also imposed short-term restrictions on large meetings that require international travel.

Tighter restrictions have been imposed in some affected countries, including temperature checks and home-working.

Banks including JPMorgan Chase & Co issued memos to employees last week making sure bankers know how to access work systems remotely to prepare to potentially work from home.

Reporting by Imani Moise; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Andrea Ricci