U.S. financial companies prep for new normal amid coronavirus outbreak

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By Imani Moise and Elizabeth Dilts Marshall

NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. financial companies are doubling down on travel restrictions to include domestic trips, replacing meetings with video calls, and webcasting events as the coronavirus outbreak starts to alter business-as-usual across the sector.

JPMorgan Chase & Co (N:) said on Thursday that employees should forgo any non-essential domestic business travel in all of its worldwide locations, according to a memo seen by Reuters.

“Meet across cities and countries by telephone or telepresence,” the bank encouraged employees in the memo.

Similarly Wells Fargo & Co (N:) said on Thursday that it was restricting all non-essential domestic business air travel in the United States, according to a memo seen by Reuters.

The moves made Wells Fargo and JPMorgan the first large U.S. banks to restrict domestic travel, after recently restricting international travel.

Rival Citigroup Inc (N:) has also started discouraging face-to-face meetings, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Silicon Valley venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz is asking all visitors to its office where they have traveled to in the past few weeks and is rescheduling meetings to video or phone whenever appropriate, according to a statement.

Hedge-fund firm Third Point LLC decided to replace the in-person portion of its March 9 investor day in Manhattan with a webcast, according to a message sent to attendees on Thursday, a copy of which was seen by Reuters.

Buyout firms Blackstone Group Inc (N:) and Apax Partners LLC postponed their annual meetings or will hold them remotely because of the coronavirus.

The changes to day-to-day business come as several states across the U.S. start registering more cases of the new coronavirus.

In the United States 12 people have died of coronavirus and the virus has killed more than 3,300 worldwide.

Some of the sector’s younger and more tech-savvy firms are getting creative in their coronavirus preparation plans.

New York-based cryptocurrency data firm Messari implemented an indefinite work-from-home policy this week, and bought virtual reality headsets for everyone on the team to start experimenting with the technology which could be used to participate remotely in events.

“Might sound crazy, but it’s worth the experiment,” said founder and Chief Executive Ryan Selkis.

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