Goldman Masks, Scrutiny at Morgan Stanley as Delta Spreads
(Bloomberg) -- Just months after rivals Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley embraced diverging strategies for returning staff to their towers, they’re suddenly in agreement: More stringent precautions are probably needed.
Goldman, the first major Wall Street bank to require employees to return to U.S. offices, is working on new measures to prevent outbreaks in the workplace, according to people with knowledge of the discussions. Plans under development include asking staff to wear masks inside offices and stepping up testing to spot infections before they can spread, the people said.
Across town, Morgan Stanley just informed staff they must soon provide proof of vaccinations against Covid-19 to enter its buildings. The firm broke with competitors in June by requiring shots, but it enforced the rule on an honor system, asking people to attest to their status.
The additional step is needed to “provide greater comfort for those working in the office,” the bank told staff in a memo on Tuesday.
A spokeswoman for Goldman Sachs declined to comment on the bank’s plans.
Masks are a familiar sight in the City of London. In the U.K., existing in-office health and safety measures were left unchanged in July at firms including Goldman and JPMorgan Chase & Co. even as government restrictions on social contact were lifted.
At Goldman’s Plumtree Court in London, policies include “the wearing of masks at all times, apart from when seated at your desk, social distancing, and participation in the on-site testing program,” according to an internal memo last month.
JPMorgan is mandating face coverings when entering buildings and in all common areas such as lifts and lobbies for its offices in Europe, a policy its U.S. offices have also reverted to having previously removed that requirement for vaccinated employees.
Across finance, an industry that was at the vanguard of returning to skyscrapers this year is now tweaking those plans as executives confront the highly contagious Delta variant and persistent resistance to vaccinations. In addition to requiring masks, other big banks have pushed back timelines in recent weeks for refilling their towers or signaled fresh willingness to be flexible long-term.
At Morgan Stanley, executives are adjusting expectations for returning to offices. Chief Executive Officer James Gorman told a conference in June that he would be “disappointed” if people weren’t back by the Labor Day holiday in September. But the firm has held off on setting a deadline, and Tuesday’s memo struck a more patient tone.
“In the coming weeks, we will continue to evaluate the best and safest way to get the majority of our employees working in the office, recognizing that this step may take longer than we originally anticipated,” the bank said.
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