Money managers are curtailing travel to cities plagued by the SARS outbreak.
UBS Global Asset Management, Chicago, has the toughest policy - a complete ban on travel to Hong Kong, Singapore, China, Vietnam, Taiwan and Toronto, according to spokeswoman Christine Walton.
"Anybody who has visited those regions, upon return, would have to go into a 10-day quarantine and can't go into any UBS offices," said Ms. Walton. She said the firm's Toronto office mainly does business with Canadian pension fund clients, so business there has not been greatly affected yet.
Last week, the World Health Organization expanded its earlier warning on travel to Hong Kong and China to include Toronto. The WHO announcement said only people who have "essential" needs should travel to Toronto.
Other money managers warning against, or outright banning, travel to Hong Kong and Toronto include Putnam Investments, Boston; Franklin Templeton Investments, San Mateo, Calif.; and New York's Morgan Stanley, General Motors Asset Management, J.P. Morgan Chase
& Co., Citigroup Asset Management and Deutsche Asset Management's parent, Deutsche Bank Americas.
Deutsche Bank's policy also is quite strict. There is a complete ban on travel to Hong Kong and mainland China. Travel to Singapore and Toronto is allowed only for critical business, and only with special approval, according to spokeswoman Juanita Guitierrez.
Any Deutsche Bank employees who travel to Hong Kong, mainland China, Singapore or Toronto are not allowed to come into any Deutsche Bank office or attend any Deutsche Bank conference or event for seven days after they return from their trips. The bank also prohibits clients or visitors coming to the United States from the affected locations from coming into a Deutsche Bank office for seven days after arriving from their trips.
Most money managers interviewed are taking less stringent steps, while still being cautious.
"We are ... advising employees to use discretion on travel to Toronto and in Asia," said Sinead Martin, a Putnam spokeswoman. "We're telling them to do business by phone or in other ways that don't involve travel."
Morgan Stanley is restricting travel to Toronto, Hong Kong and China, according to spokesman Brett Galloway. "If an employee wants to travel in any of the affected areas, they have to get permission from their division chief."
Morgan Stanley also has been using teleconferencing to conduct meetings between officials in the United States and Hong Kong, China or Toronto.
GMAM spokesman Jerry Dubrowski said parent company General Motors Corp. asked its employees to cancel all non-essential travel to affected areas.
He added that any employee who wants to travel to Hong Kong or other affected areas in Asia must get approval from the human resources department. There is a company advisory for Toronto as well, but employees can go there without getting official permission.
Tom Johnson, spokesman for J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., parent of J.P. Morgan Fleming Asset Management, said the company's travel advisories focused on Hong Kong, China and Vietnam. "We 're saying that only absolutely essential travel to those areas should take place."
Citigroup Asset Management and Franklin Templeton both are advising employees against non-essential travel, but neither has a direct prohibition.
Money managers and pension funds based in Toronto are starting to feel the impact of the travel restrictions and the fears about SARS.
The Ontario Teachers Pension Plan has put a "crisis plan" into effect, according to Lee Fullerton, spokeswoman for the C$68 billion (US$46 billion) pension fund. "We wanted to have a plan in case someone here gets sick and we have to be quarantined," she said. The investment side of the organization would keep operating with investment officials conducting business from their homes, she said.
"A lot of companies are doing contingency planning now," said Ms. Fullerton.
Ian Dale, spokesman for the C$14 billion Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, said that while board officials are still traveling to areas outside Toronto, people who were planning to come to Toronto to see them "are postponing trips or doing more teleconferencing."
The C$30 billion Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System already had "a business continuance plan and an emergency preparedness plan" in place, according to Jane Courtemanche, a spokeswoman for OMERS. She said the fund had activated the "pre-alert phase of the plan" so it could go into effect immediately if any employees became sick or were quarantined.
OMERS is feeling other effects. Said Pat Nolan, assistant to OMERS Chief Executive Officer Dale Richmond: "Several of our people who were supposed to go to conferences in the United States have been asked not to come." n