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Global big banks plot back-to-office plans as vaccines roll out

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The biggest banks in the world plan to re-open their offices, emboldened by aggressive vaccination drives and falling COVID-19 cases in major financial hubs, after sending most employees home early last year to help stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Banks globally are adopting different methods to ensure a successful back-to-office plan including hybrid working models and vaccination drives.

Here is the state of play with back-to-office plans in various regions:

UNITED STATES

Wells Fargo & Co

The bank’s U.S. staff working from home will begin returning to office from Sept. 7 and the process will continue through October, Chief Operating Officer Scott Powell told employees in a memo seen by Reuters. Returns to office will be organized by job function and location.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc

The bank planned to bring U.S. employees back to the office by mid-June.

JPMorgan Chase & Co

The largest U.S. bank will bring its employees in the United States back to the office on a rotational basis from July and plans to maintain a 50% occupancy cap during the return-to-office phase.

The bank also plans to step up the return of all of its employees in England to working at least part of their week in its offices from June 21.

Citigroup Inc

CEO Jane Fraser said in a memo in March that post-pandemic, most of the employees would be able to work in a “hybrid” setting, allowing them to work from home for up to two days a week.

Morgan Stanley

The bank’s chief executive officer, James Gorman, said if most employees are not back to work at the bank’s Manhattan headquarters in September, he will be “very disappointed”.

Gorman said his bank’s policy will vary by location, noting the firm’s 2,000 employees in India will not return to offices this year.

The bank’s staff and clients will not be allowed to enter its New York offices if they are not fully vaccinated, according to a source familiar with the matter. Employees, clients, and visitors will be required to attest to being fully vaccinated to access the bank’s offices in New York and Westchester, the source said.

Bank of America Corp

The lender expects all of its vaccinated employees to return to the office after Labor Day in early September, and will then focus on developing plans to bring back unvaccinated workers to its sites, Chief Executive Officer Brian Moynihan told https://bloom.bg/3gyALn3 Bloomberg News in an interview.

UNITED KINGDOM

Barclays

CEO Jes Staley has said the bank will adopt a hybrid working model and will reduce its real estate footprint but maintain its main offices in London and New York.

HSBC Holdings

HSBC has said it plans to cut its global office footprint by around 40% as it moves to a hybrid working model for most employees. The lender moved 1,200 call center staff in Britain to permanent home working contracts, Reuters reported in April, going further than some rivals in cementing changes to working patterns.

Lloyds Banking Group

Britain’s biggest domestic bank is hoping to resume office-based trials and experiments with around 5,000 of its staff this summer, once government restrictions allow. The lender has said it plans to cut 20% of its office space over two years.

Standard Chartered

StanChart said it will make permanent the flexible working arrangements introduced during the pandemic, and that it could cut a third of its office space in the next three to four years.

NatWest

CEO Alison Rose has said the bank is likely to adopt a hybrid working model, but has stressed offices will remain important as a place to bring people together to collaborate.

GERMANY

Deutsche Bank

Deutsche Bank in London plans to bring more staff back from June 21, assuming the city’s lockdown restrictions are loosened, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

Germany’s largest lender has also told its investment bankers in the U.S. that it expects them to resume working from office no later than Labor Day, according to a memo seen by Reuters. The bank earlier said it was following a regional approach to the pandemic and return to the office issues, reflecting the different situations in individual countries.

SWITZERLAND

Credit Suisse

Credit Suisse in July 2020 launched a global program evaluating various work-from-home options, which are expected to shape its post-pandemic working models. It has been monitoring and adapting work arrangements since launching work-from-home globally in March 2020, taking into account local guidelines.

UBS

UBS Chairman Axel Weber in May said flexibility would remain part of work arrangements at Switzerland’s biggest bank going forward, where roles allow. Return to office plans vary from region to region, in accordance with local government guidelines.

CANADA

Royal Bank of Canada, the country’s largest lender, is exploring a flexible and hybrid work arrangement to bring its employees back to the office, Chief Executive Officer David McKay said.

Source: Company statements, memo, sources

(Reporting by Noor Zainab Hussain and Niket Nishant in Bengaluru, Iain Withers and Lawrence White in London, Tom Sims in Frankfurt and Oliver Hirt in Zurich, and Matt Scuffham and Elizabeth Dilts Marshall in New York; Editing by Anil D’Silva and Ramakrishnan M.)

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96% of COVID-19 cases are among those not fully vaccinated, B.C. health officials say – Global News

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Ninety-six per cent of the COVID-19 cases recorded from June 15 to July 15 were among people who were either only partially vaccinated or not vaccinated at all, B.C.’s health minister says.

“If you take all the cases from June 15 to July 15, 78 per cent of those cases are among those who are unvaccinated,” Adrian Dix said.

“I think the evidence will encourage more people to get vaccinated. That tells you people should need to get vaccinated. We are seeing new cases and they are largely in unvaccinated people.”

Read more:
B.C. reports over 100 new COVID-19 cases for first time in five weeks

The B.C. government will not require people to get the vaccine, but will not stop private businesses from doing so.

The seven-day rolling average for new cases rose from 42 new cases a day one week ago, to 73 new cases a day on Friday.

Most of the new cases are linked to indoor social gatherings at people’s homes, Dix said.


Click to play video: 'COVID-19: B.C. reports 89 new cases of virus, highest daily total in more than a month'



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COVID-19: B.C. reports 89 new cases of virus, highest daily total in more than a month


COVID-19: B.C. reports 89 new cases of virus, highest daily total in more than a month

“We are not going to deny access to services. Based on your vaccinated. That is our position. It will not be mandatory in that sense. There will be requirements in certain sense if people are not vaccinated,” Dix said.

“I think if you are going to have someone over to your house for dinner, you should ask them if they have been vaccinated, and it’s ok to tell them not to come if they haven’t been.”


Click to play video: 'COVID-19: B.C. government provides $36.5M to 83 anchor tourist attractions, higher vaccination rates mean lower cases'



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COVID-19: B.C. government provides $36.5M to 83 anchor tourist attractions, higher vaccination rates mean lower cases


COVID-19: B.C. government provides $36.5M to 83 anchor tourist attractions, higher vaccination rates mean lower cases

As of Friday, 80.3 per cent of eligible people 12 and older in B.C. have received at least one vaccine.

The province is hoping to hit 85 per cent immunization.

All five health authorities have been adopting additional strategies to supplement the mass immunization clinics, including pop-up clinics for first doses at parks, amusement parks, and beaches.

Read more:
COVID-19: B.C. reports no deaths but 89 new cases, highest daily total in over a month

Dr. Navdeep Grewal of the South Asian COVID-19 Task Force said the province or private businesses should consider vouchers for food or sports tickets to encourage immunization.

“I think it is that final 10 per cent (of the population) we need to get vaccinated, so we can avoid the fourth wave in the fall and winter,” Grewal said.

“We need to find out where they are gathering, give them the information they need, and then give them that first dose that is so needed.”

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Run, don't walk, to the nearest clinic to get vaccinated before September, families told – CBC.ca

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Kids who are going back to local elementary and high schools in September must get their first COVID-19 shot by Saturday to ensure they’re eligible for their second dose and be fully vaccinated by Labour Day, according to the health unit. 

The Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU) says 73 per cent of those aged 12 to 17 in Middlesex-London already have their first shot, and just over a quarter have two doses. 

 “The uptake among this age group has been tremendous, right on board with some of our older population who was really eager to get vaccinated,” said Dr. Alex Summers, the associate medical officer of health for the MLHU. 

“We see eagerness for people to get vaccinated and we’re just delighted by that. 12 to 17-year-olds will be back in in-person activities, and that’s where they flourish, that’s where they want to be, and we want to be able to support them to do so in a way that COVID isn’t transmitting.” 

Vaccination is the “key ingredient” to maximizing the coming school year and making sure there are few disruptions. 

With school eight weeks away, Ontario health officials examine what the upcoming school year will look like. Overall, vaccine numbers are good but the data shows a lag in vaccination rates among eligible younger Canadians. If vaccine pickup does not improve before the beginning of the school year, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kieran Moore is concerned about rising infections. 4:06

COVID-19 vaccines have yet to be approved for those under 12. 

“That’s why it’s really important to be gathering outdoors and making sure that everybody who is older than the age of 12 who is interacting with kids is vaccinated,” Summers said. “We can limit transmission among those who just can’t get the vaccine because they’re not old enough as we approach the school year.”

What exactly school will look like in September isn’t quite clear, but screening for symptoms, staying home when exhibiting symptoms, and wearing masks in classrooms are likely.

No appointments are required for COVID-19 vaccinations for anyone 12 or older for first or second doses at walk-in and mass vaccination sites. For more information on vaccinations and locations, visit the health unit’s website here.

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Air Canada anticipating recovery in demand as travel restrictions are eased – Yahoo Canada Finance

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Air Canada is anticipating a recovery in demand in the coming months as travel restrictions are eased and leisure passengers look to get away after being grounded by COVID-19.

Although overall bookings remain below pre-pandemic levels, customer interest began to increase in June with the elimination of quarantines for fully vaccinated returning Canadians and the removal of other travel restrictions.

“We can now optimistically say that we are turning a corner, and we expect to soon see correlated financial improvements,” CEO Michael Rousseau said Friday during a conference call.

“Indications are that the worst effects of the COVID-19 pandemic may now be behind us. Based on what we are seeing in other markets that are further along in reopening in Canada, we anticipate travel will resume at a quickening pace.”

Rousseau said bookings are steadily increasing for domestic, transborder and Atlantic markets as well as to sun destinations for the coming winter. Future bookings In some weeks of June were ahead of the same period in 2019.

“We expect the most recent announcements of the Government of Canada relaxing existing measures will further help strengthen the interest of our customers in flying again.”

Current demand is largely for leisure and visiting friends and family, but Air Canada expects to see a progressive return of corporate demand in September and October, added chief commercial officer Lucie Guillemette.

That could be aided by the ability of Canadian passengers to rely on COVID tests taken in Canada for trips of less than 72 hours.

“We are encouraged by some of the commentary from our peers in the United States with regards to overall business travel recovery,” she told analysts.

Guillemette said that rebuilding its U.S. operations as the largest foreign carrier is key to its recovery. That will also expedite the recovery of international long-haul operations as it seeks to achieve or exceed its share of the U.S. long-haul global market.

The Atlantic business will recover quicker than the Pacific or Latin America because of high vaccination rates, strong cultural and business connections with Europe and strong leisure interest from Canadians.

“We are already observing healthy demand signals for Europe into 2022,” she added.

The Montreal-based company says it lost $1.17 billion or $3.31 per diluted share, compared with a loss of $1.75 billion or $6.44 per share a year earlier.

Adjusted profits were $1.08 billion or $3.03 per share.

Revenues during the three months ended June 30 surged 58.8 per cent to $837 million from $527 million in the second quarter of 2020. Passenger revenues more than doubled to $426 million from a year ago which marked the first full quarter to be impacted by the pandemic. Cargo revenues increased 33 per cent to a record $358 million.

Air Canada was expected to post $2.76 per share in adjusted profits on $848.2 million of revenues, according to financial data firm Refitinitv.

The country’s largest airline increased its seat capacity by 78 per cent compared to the same time last year, and was down 86 per cent from the second quarter of 2019. It plans to increase available seat miles in the third quarter so capacity will be 65 per cent below the same period in 2019.

In August, its domestic capacity is expected to be about two-thirds of what it was in 2019.

“The third-quarter outlook pointed to healthy demand recovery and a significant improvement in daily cash burn,” Walter Spracklin of RBC Dominion Securities wrote in a report.

Air Canada says it has refunded about $1 billion for non-refundable tickets and expects to pay an additional $200 million in the third quarter, which will be covered by the federal government’s $1.4 billion refund credit facility.

The airline says it has recalled about 2,900 employees in June and July as it restores service this summer to destinations, particularly in Canada and the U.S. More workers will be called back for the fall season.

Air Canada has retained about half of its workforce, including the vast majority of pilots who have remained current and ready to fly when conditions warrant.

While it works to rebuild operations, the airline said it is also preparing to meet the challenges from increased competition stemming from expansion plans for Porter Airlines and Flair Airlines. Porter plans to add jet service from several gateways, including Toronto’s Pearson airport, in the second half of next year, while Flair is adding aircraft and routes.

“We certainly welcome healthy competition. but suffice to say, we will be ready to deal with that situation,” Rousseau said of Porter.

He also said the failed purchased of Transat may have been beneficial long-term, but it would have been very difficult to integrate while also focusing on the post-COVID recovery.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 23, 2021.

Companies in this story: (TSX:AC)

Ross Marowits, The Canadian Press

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