As Chicago girds for the first NATO summit held in an American city outside of Washington, investment executives in the city are setting plans in place to minimize disruptions, but expect it to be “business as usual.”
“Our preparation is largely what we do all the time — prepare for any plan that would disrupt our business,” said Roger Schmitt, senior vice president and chief information officer at Ariel Investments LLC.
The G-8 also originally was scheduled to meet in Chicago the two days prior to the May 20-21 NATO summit. While that meeting was relocated, investment executives are still taking a calculated path of preparation.
While organizations by and large will remain fully operational, contingency and disaster recovery plans have been reviewed for months leading up to the event in anticipation of any interruptions to the workday. Precautions include having employees work from home or remote locations, and moving board meetings and client visits to another week.
“Everyone is expecting the best and preparing for the worst,” said Mr. Schmitt. Ariel executives plan to be in their offices during the summit, but if employees are prevented from working there, they will work off-site or from home, he said.
Buck Consultants LLC, however, plans to close its office after the workday on May 17 and reopen May 22, with employees working at home on May 18 and 21, said Gregory Olalde, principal and Chicago market leader.
“I think nobody is looking forward to coming downtown that week, clients included,” Mr. Olalde said. “I'm not sure what will happen with protests ... but I don't want my people in harm's way. The best way to deal with it is to tell people to stay home. I don't want any of my teams having to deal with protesters.”
James Mohler, executive director of the $5.1 billion Municipal Employees' Annuity & Benefit Fund of Chicago, said it will be “business as usual” for employees, but that he will make “more decisions on the fly” as he hears information from local and federal agencies. He said it is still a possibility that key personnel will work from home. The fund also has a disaster recovery site in suburban Lombard.
“We always remain cautious, even with the G-8 conference not here,” Mr. Mohler said. “We're doing the same thing as before the G-8 was canceled.”
Businesses have received information on planned road closures and protest routes, and now will rely on communication networks from local and federal agencies for more up-to-the-minute updates.
Ariel will largely rely on ChicagoFIRST, a non-profit association of private firms in the area that collaborate with one another and with government at all levels for up-to-the-minute communications. The organization is largely made up of financial institutions, including Northern Trust Corp., Aon PLC, William Blair & Co., Mesirow Financial Holdings Inc., Morgan Stanley, UBS, Goldman Sachs and Citadel LLC.
“Our goal is to help them share with one another in providing a forum in which they can get a sense of what everyone's doing,” said Brian Tishuk, executive director of ChicagoFIRST. The organization will monitor all protest locations throughout the week.
Mr. Tishuk said no ChicagoFirst members plan to close their offices during the NATO summit, but almost all will have some employees working from home. In general, members are rescheduling important meetings and telling visitors and clients not to come to the city during the height of the summit, he said.
“It's more akin to Y2K,” Mr. Tishuk said. “You know it's coming, you have to prepare, but you don't know exactly what's going to happen.”
Mr. Tishuk does not anticipate any violent protests, but acknowledged it only takes a couple people to turn a peaceful situation, and that it is a “legitimate concern” for the financial industry. He cited non-violent May Day and Occupy protests that targeted banks and financial professionals, and said there is “reason to be apprehensive and prepare.”
The Chicago NATO host committee also has a business communication center that will provide local businesses direct access to information from local and federal agencies. There have been no directions to close businesses or have employees work from home, said Jennifer Martinez, spokeswoman for the host committee.
“We will abide by whatever guidance we receive from local authorities,” said Maury Tognarelli, CEO of real estate investment manager Heitman LLC. “We feel pretty comfortable in dealing with anything that might come up.”
Mercer LLC spokesman Charles Salmans said Marsh & McLennan Cos. Inc., and its operating companies, including Mercer, have a task force monitoring all developments and do not expect any disruptions.