Managers in storm-ravaged Northeast keep close eye on Athena

Updated

Money managers from New Jersey to Massachusetts are watching closely as a nasty Nor'easter, now dubbed Winter Storm Athena, swirls closer to the East Coast.

The National Weather Service has predicted that winds gusting to 40 to 60 mph will plague the Eastern Seaboard from New Jersey to New York City to Cape Cod. As a result of storm surges expected to be between three and four feet, moderate flooding is possible in low-lying coastal areas, including Boston and New York harbors.

Athena also is packing a precipitation punch, with moderate rain likely along the coast and inland as far west as Allentown, Pa., turning to a wintery mix of snow and sleet in some areas as temperatures drop overnight into Thursday morning.

It was snowing lightly in New Jersey as of press time, but sources there said accumulation is slight.

Because Athena is unlikely to wreak the level of devastation Hurricane Sandy did last week, investment companies remained vigilant but have yet to sound any alarms.

“As with any weather-related emergency, State Street (Corp.) is monitoring the storm and will enact business continuity procedures if needed,” said Alicia Curran Sweeney, a spokeswoman for the Boston-based company, in an e-mail. “This includes enacting work-from-home arrangements and ensuring alternate sites are on standby should we need to transfer work to other locations. At this time we expect to continue business operations without interruption.”

BlackRock (BLK)'s “East Coast incident management team will be closely monitoring the situation. At this point we are not invoking our crisis response teams but could do so in a manner of minutes if necessary,” said Brian Beades, a spokesman, in an e-mail. BlackRock has several offices in midtown Manhattan.

David Eckert, managing director and head of infrastructure at Neuberger Berman Group said that as with Hurricane Sandy, the firm's business continuity team, which he heads, has been tracking the storm for some days now. As of Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Eckert said the storm seems more likely to create inconveniences such as longer commutes rather than the major destruction last week's hurricane caused.

The Neuberger Berman team moved into “phase zero” of emergency planning Tuesday, warning all employees in the firm's headquarters in midtown Manhattan by e-mail about the storm. The message reminded employees to be ready to work from home if the company invokes the same contingency plan it did for Hurricane Sandy.

That plan identifies critical employees and makes arrangements for them to stay in hotels near the office in advance of the storm.

Other employees who can't commute into Manhattan will work remotely. All employees can tap into their desktops via a computer system in the headquarters office or two New Jersey data centers. As with Hurricane Sandy, if needed, space will be arranged with temporary office companies for employees without power at home, Mr. Eckert said.

While Athena likely will be much less ferocious than Sandy, the second major storm to hit the region in 10 days will exact another toll on exhausted residents of the Tri-State area around New York City, sources said.

About 423,000 households in New Jersey and about 66,000 in New York City were still without power on Wednesday morning.

“For folks who are cold and hungry, a … snowstorm is just adding insult to injury,” said New Jersey resident Matthew Bastian, director of market and business development for CUSIP Global Services, which issues identification codes for publicly traded assets in the U.S.

CUSIP's office is located in the area of lower Manhattan that was hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy last week; the building was badly damaged by flood waters and is currently uninhabitable. Mr. Bastian and the firm's other 50 employees are working from their homes and in a disaster recovery center in East Windsor, N.J., until the office can be reopened. A date hasn't been set for the office's reopening.