Hurricane contingency plans working for managers, pension funds

NY hurricane aftermath
Vehicles are submerged in water in New York's financial district following Hurricane Sandy.

Updated

Power outages and flooding in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy kept money managers and pension fund executives at home and markets closed for a second day on Tuesday.

Government offices in Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington remained closed.

Also postponed were quarterly earnings announcements of many companies, including Affiliated Managers Group and Fortress Investment Group.

Joshua Gotbaum, director of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., didn't let what is being called “Superstorm Sandy” stop him from his scheduled appearance at the American Society of Pension Professionals & Actuaries' annual conference in Maryland. While other scheduled members for the conference's “governmental update” panel — including Assistant Secretary of Labor Phyllis Borzi — did not make it, Mr. Gotbaum stayed at the conference hotel Monday night to be sure he didn't miss speaking to the 1,000-plus attendees who had arrived before the storm hit. “It's customer service,” Mr. Gotbaum said in an interview. “Without DB plans, there'd be no PBGC.”

While the New York-based stock exchanges remained closed on Tuesday, the floor and building of the New York Stock Exchange “are fine” and the company is working toward restoring normal trading, according to Robert Rendine, a spokesman. NYSE Euronext's building on Wall Street is close to the section of Manhattan that was flooded when the storm propelled a 13-foot sea surge.

In Pennsylvania, the $25 billion Pennsylvania State Employees' Retirement System, $47.9 billion Pennsylvania Public School Employees' Retirement System and $1.6 billion Pennsylvania Municipal Retirement System all were closed on Monday and Tuesday.

Heather Tyler, SERS spokeswoman, made it to the office Tuesday along with senior staff “to assess our business needs,” she wrote in an e-mail.

Evelyn Tatkovski, spokeswoman for PSERS, wrote in an e-mail that while the pension fund's offices remain closed, its facilities and operations fared well during the storm and officials expect to be fully operational before the end of the week. All three pension funds are in Harrisburg.

In New York, J.P. Morgan Asset Management (JPM) executives are “assessing the effects of the storm and continue to suggest that employees in impacted areas work remotely,” said Charlotte Powell, a company spokeswoman, in an e-mail. The company's headquarters in New York remains open with staffing levels maintained to perform critical functions, she said, and the asset management division has not had an interruption in business operations except for the closure of the New York-based stock exchanges.

Neuberger Berman Group's Manhattan office is open, but most employees are working remotely, primarily because transportation has been suspended, said Alexander Samuelson, a spokesman, in an e-mail. The business continuity systems have been working well and employees have been able to log on from their homes, he said.

TIAA-CREF's headquarters on Third Avenue in Manhattan remained closed Tuesday and New York area employees who can work remotely are doing so, said Chad Peterson, a company spokesman, in an e-mail.

Prudential Financial's “major facilities in the area affected by the storm are still closed. And in keeping with the company's business continuation plans, all essential personnel continue to work remotely,” spokeswoman Theresa Miller said via e-mail.

Boston was spared the worst of the storm's fury, said John F. Reilly, a spokesman for Boston-based MFS Investment Management, in an e-mail. MFS Investment's headquarters was open Tuesday, but employees were allowed to work from home.

In fact, “work from home was the main solution; we didn't need to activate the business recovery site in Marlboro, Mass.,” Mr. Reilly wrote.

Carlyle Group's operations in Washington and New York, “continue uninterrupted and offices are open for employees who can reach them safely,” said Randall Whitestone, a spokesman for the private equity giant, by e-mail.

Mr. Whitestone noted that New York office employees who are affected by mass transit shutdowns will continue to work remotely as firm officials “monitor the situation in the days to come.”

T. Rowe Price Associates (TROW) also reported that its continuity plans have ensured that business operations were not interrupted.

Bill Benintende, a company spokesman, said in an e-mail that all systems are operating normally and there are no emergencies to report. Although the firm's contingency site in Linthicum, Md., lost power, it is functioning smoothly on generator power.

“We anticipate resuming normal operations tomorrow,” Mr. Benintende said.

Hazel Bradford, Arleen Jacobius, Robert Steyer and Bloomberg contributed to this story.