Capital One to Keep Most Staff Home Until at Least September

Capital One Financial Corp., potentially setting a standard for the U.S. financial industry, plans to keep most employees working at home at least four more months as it waits for the coronavirus pandemic to ebb.

The lender’s offices in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. will remain shut to all non-essential staff at least through the Labor Day holiday on Sept. 7, Chief Executive Officer Richard Fairbank wrote in an internal memo. He promised employees that the McLean, Virginia-based firm will give them at least six weeks’ notice once it decides to reopen those sites.

That’s one of the strongest signs yet that legions of industry employees using makeshift work stations at home may have to wait much longer to return to their offices, even as many states begin lifting restrictions on public life. Capital One, which earns most of its revenue from its massive credit card business, said in late March it had more than 40,000 people doing their jobs remotely online, accounting for more than three-quarters of its workforce.

Many major financial firms have yet to publicly set dates for reopening offices as they grapple with numerous challenges, such as how to help employees safely commute, ascend elevators and navigate shared workspaces. And those that have weighed in on the topic have expressed caution. AtCitigroup Inc., for example, President Jane Fraser said last month that the firm will conduct its own analysis of risks and won’t necessarily reopen offices just because local authorities issue all-clears.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. executives told employees on Tuesday the firm is “carefully thinking about a gradual ‘return to office’ framework” for operations around the world, noting staff in Hong Kong, mainland China, Stockholm and Tel Aviv have started going back. Credit Suisse Group AG employees were told to expect to return in four phases.

Jefferies Financial Group Inc. CEO Rich Handler and President Brian Friedman said this month that employees had proved they can work efficiently at home and should have the final say on whether to return. On that basis, “our offices will not be open and full again when the president, governor, mayor or the two of us say they are,” the executives wrote in a memo. Working from home, they noted, is hardly a break.

“Each day blends into the next,” they wrote. “Each of us are running at a million miles an hour, without ever leaving our home-office caves. We recognize this reality and are deeply appreciative.”

Capital One, for its part, has spent years investing in technology and was among the first U.S. banks to announce it would transition to cloud computing. Those moves helped the firm operate more effectively during this crisis, Fairbank said in the memo.

Decisions to return will vary by location, dependent on local conditions, he said. Meanwhile, most of the lender’s branches have remained open, serving customers with drive-thru or from behind glass.

— With assistance by Sridhar Natarajan

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