Virus Lockdown Tests Are New Norm for London’s Money Managers

(Bloomberg) -- London’s money managers are bracing for coronavirus.

From stocking up on dried and frozen food to testing disaster planning, hedge funds and asset managers are preparing for a potential lockdown of the city as the virus spreads around the world.

Hedge fund Sandbar Asset Management has been testing its readiness all week by making its employees work remotely. GAM Holding AG has been assessing its remote recorded lines should traders in London need to use them. Janus Henderson Group Plc has told some staff to take their office laptops home every day in case they are forced to work there.

The moves come as countries across the world scramble to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus which has infected 83,000 people and killed more than 2,800. The scare has sparked a sell off, with global stock markets on course for the worst week since the 2008 financial crisis.

“This, from early on, was not a scare, but the thing itself. Not a fire drill, but the fire,” said Doug Greenig, a biologist-turned-mathematician who now runs his own systematic macro hedge fund in the city. His Florin Court Capital has pre-existing contingency plans which can handle scenarios such as a total lockdown of London or no-one being able to get to the office, he said.

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Goldman Sachs Group Inc. has told clients who have visited China and the affected parts of Italy, or been in contact with someone who has in the last two weeks, to refrain from attending a fund conference to be held on Wednesday.

The world’s largest listed hedge fund Man Group Plc has banned business travel to Italy, Hong Kong and China, and is asking anyone who has traveled to those places recently to self-quarantine for 14 days.

Anthony Lawler, the head of GAM’s systematic trading business, said his team has validated all key persons’ remote access and remote recorded lines should it come to that for trading.

The firm has also canceled specific trips for Japan and Asia due in March as well as onsite visits from clients next month. Meetings have been replaced with conference calls.

Matt Starick, founder of Hong Kong-based investment firm Red Door Capital Management, was supposed to attend a hedge fund event organized by Bank of America Corp. on Thursday. He skipped it and decided to address the audience via a video call, according to an investor who was present at the conference. Starick and a spokesperson for the bank declined to comment.

The chief operating officer of a London-based hedge fund firm said his firm is invoking a full business continuity plan next week in preparation for an extended period of not coming into the city.

Another executive at a multi-billion dollar hedge fund firm has stockpiled enough food to last two weeks, the typical length of the incubation period of the virus.

“Better to practice and rehearse,” said James Orme‑Smith, chief executive officer of Sandbar. He’s placed an order for dried and frozen foods, he said.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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