Citi Cuts NYC-Area Office Staff in Echo of Pandemic’s Early Days

Citigroup Inc. is scaling back staffing in New York-area offices as coronavirus cases surge again.

The firm is once more limiting in-person staff to only those who need to be in the office, after earlier allowing as many as 30% of workers to return to buildings in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. The directive initially came just ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, and is now in place through at least the end of the year.

That means the bank again has less than 10% of workers in its tri-state offices, said the person, who asked not to be identified discussing personnel information. In other U.S. states, the firm has largely limited office staffing to essential personnel throughout the pandemic.

“We absolutely like to have our people in when we can have them in, but we’re not going to put them at risk,” Chief Executive Officer Michael Corbat said at an event that aired Friday on Bloomberg Television.

A Citigroup spokeswoman declined to comment, and referred to Corbat’s remarks at the event.

The new guidance is similar to the New York-based bank’s stance in the early days of the pandemic, though it lets business heads determine which employees can be at the office, said the person with knowledge of Citigroup’s plans. The firm allows staffers who find working from home untenable to come in as well, the person said.

The company has long said it will use local health data to govern decisions around returning workers to offices. New York City’s positivity rate for Covid-19 climbed to 5.43% in the 7-day period ending Dec. 2, the highest since late May, as New Jersey reported a record number of cases on Friday.

The decision to limit New York staffing mirrors its moves in Hong Kong, where the firm increased the work-from-home ratio to about 70% this week -- compared with a previous arrangement that had 50% working remotely -- as virus cases surge in the Asian finance hub.

“We’ve got to stay flexible and obviously we’re going through a bit of resurgence in parts of the world right now,” Corbat said at the Bloomberg Invest Talks event. “We’ve been in the phase of tapering back.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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