Morgan Stanley shifts London traders to Heathrow site to counter virus: sources

FILE PHOTO: The corporate logo of financial firm Morgan Stanley is pictured on a building in San Diego, California, Sept. 24, 2013. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) - Morgan Stanley MS.N is shifting part of its London-based sales and trading staff to a secondary site near Heathrow airport to ensure its trading desks can operate smoothly through the coronavirus outbreak, two sources familiar with the matter said.

The Wall Street bank tested the site, located in Hounslow, earlier this week and is pressing ahead with plans to move part of its trading workforce out of its Canary Wharf base, the sources said.

The move comes as global banks take more sweeping steps to contain the spread of the virus in Europe’s biggest financial hub, sending staff home, splitting up trading teams and activating back-up offices.

Despite efforts to lobby regulators, banks have yet to receive exemptions to connect trading desks remotely.

Trading room compliance - along with complex technology and the need for high-speed connections - means trading desks cannot just be operated remotely.

JPMorgan Chase & Co JPM.N was the first bank to activate contingency plans and split its sales and trading staff between central locations in London and New York, and secondary sites in Basingstoke - about 50 miles (80 km) from its London base - and New Jersey.

Other banks including Goldman Sachs GS.N and Citi C.N are still testing secondary sites located in the London suburbs of Croydon and Lewisham respectively, and may shift staff in the coming weeks.

Some Barclays BARC.L traders have been told to work at the bank's Northolt site, about 13 miles from central London.

Reporting by Pamela Barbaglia; Editing by David Goodman and Jan Harvey