East Coast money managers turn to contingency plans during Hurricane Sandy

NY hurricane
New York city works stack sandbags at a building entrance on Water Street.

Money management firms along the East Coast implemented contingency plans on Monday, in advance of what is predicted to be the largest hurricane in the past 25 years, closing offices and urging — or requiring — employees to work remotely.

Many companies shifted their operations to remote sites well out of the path of the storm, including to non-U.S. offices, in the case of Morgan Stanley (MS) Investment Management and other companies with international operations.

All of the money managers that could be reached said they have instituted emergency plans and have either closed their East Coast offices or encouraged their employees to work remotely. They all stress that their core investment management operations will not be affected because of those efforts.

BlackRock (BLK), Bridgewater Associates, Fidelity Investments, G.E. Asset Management, Goldman Sachs Asset Management, The Carlyle Group, MFS Investment Management, J.P. Morgan Asset Management (JPM), Morgan Stanley Investment Management, Neuberger Berman Group, Prudential Financial, Putnam Investments, T. Rowe Price Associates (TROW), State Street Global Advisors, UBS Asset Management and Vanguard Group, were reached by P&I Daily about their hurricane impact plans.

Neuberger Berman's midtown Manhattan office is “technically open,” but only essential staff and employees who live near the building are in the office, said Alexander Samuelson, a company spokesman, who was working from home.

The Carlyle Group's Washington and New York offices are open, but the private equity manager is advising its employees to work from home, said Randall Whitestone, a spokesman, from his home in Westchester County.

BlackRock closed its offices Monday in New York, Boston and Princeton, N.J., in anticipation of the storm.

In New York, BlackRock “people are working remotely except for those deemed critical, who are in the office,” said Bobbie Collins, managing director based in New York who is working from home because of the storm.

BlackRock has 1,200 people in its New York office, Ms. Collins said. About 100 people in the New York office are deemed critical, including portfolio managers and staff in facilities, she added.

Karina Byrne, a spokeswoman for UBS Asset Management, was in the firm's New York office Monday because she is considered a “critical” employee, she said in an e-mail.

UBS executives are “monitoring the storm's progress and are in constant touch with city and state authorities … we have robust business continuity plans that will ensure we are open for business and operate as normal, so clients will see no disruptions. There are critical staff in all locations,” Ms. Byrne said.

Morgan Stanley Investment Management moved some of its critical staff to locations away from the storm's expected path and transferred functions from New York to other domestic and international offices. Employees also are working from home and are using designated work recovery sites, said spokesman Matthew Burkhard in an e-mail.

All major U.S. equity markets were closed Monday and will remain closed Tuesday. The Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association recommended no trading in dollar-denominated fixed-income securities after noon on Monday and all day on Tuesday.

South of New York, The Vanguard Group instructed most of its employees at the firm's Malvern, Pa., headquarters to leave by 2 p.m. Monday, said John S. Woerth, a spokesman, in an e-mail. The company's Charlotte, N.C., and Scottsdale, Ariz., offices are handling most inquiries, Mr. Woerth said.

All of T. Rowe Price Associates' East Coast offices, including its Baltimore headquarters, were closed Monday and will remain closed Tuesday, since the stock markets are closed, said Bill Benintende, a spokesman, in an interview from his home. Business operations and client relationship management activities are not expected to be interrupted because of a shift of operations to locations away from the Eastern Seaboard, Mr. Benintende said.

Further north, money managers in Boston also were preparing for the worst.

Putnam Investments closed its Boston office Monday, but “essential personnel are working as required to perform key functions, including overseeing investments in fixed income and foreign markets that are open today,” said Jon Goldstein, a spokesman, in an e-mail.

“Due to the unprecedented weather predictions, we have implemented some contingency procedures, including managers implementing work from home arrangements for non-essential staff at their discretion,” said Alicia Curran Sweeney, a spokeswoman for SSgA.

Ms. Sweeney noted that alternate work sites are at the ready if work needs to be shifted from the company's Boston headquarters. “At this time we expect to continue business operations without interruption,” she added.

State and local governments in the storm's path also shut down.

All state offices in Connecticut and New Jersey were closed Monday, including offices of the $24.3 billion Connecticut Retirement Plans & Trust Funds, Hartford, and the New Jersey Department of Treasury's Division of Investment, Trenton, which manages the state's $71.8 billion pension system.

The New York City and Albany offices of State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, the sole trustee of the $146.5 billion New York State Common Retirement Fund, Albany, were open on Monday, Eric Sumberg, a spokesman for Mr. DiNapoli, said in an e-mail. “I believe most people in New York City are working remotely.”

New York City's public pension funds also have been affected.

“The staff that were able to make it to the office have done so and many who were not (able) are working remotely,” Michael Loughran, spokesman for New York City Comptroller John Liu., said in an e-mail.

Reporter Robert Steyer contributed to this story.