Money managers in the Asia-Pacific region are leading the way globally in returning to their offices after months of home lockdowns — but they're not rushing.
Managers in markets where the coronavirus has been brought to heel — such as mainland China, where even some client meetings and travel have resumed — have begun working from their offices again, even as most managers in the U.S., the U.K. and continental Europe continue to work from home, said Jean De Kock, a Singapore-based fixed-income asset class specialist with Mercer Investment Solutions (Singapore) Pte. Ltd. and a member of the firm's global manager research team.
Success in containing COVID-19 has likewise allowed office lights to be turned on again in markets like Taiwan, South Korea and Hong Kong.
PineBridge Investments LLC's offices in Taiwan and Korea are "open for business ... with everyone having physical meetings," even if there's a preference for meeting outside the office at a hotel or a coffee shop for now, said Anthony Fasso, the firm's Hong Kong-based Asia-Pacific CEO. Likewise, Shanghai has been back for five weeks, he said.
Japan, meanwhile, on May 25, became the latest government in the region to tell managers they can begin returning to their offices in Tokyo.
"It really depends on where the managers are based and the local government policies that are in place," noted Andrew Daniels, a Hong Kong-based senior analyst with Morningstar Inc.'s manager research division.
For example, the bulk of money managers continue to work from home in Singapore — where the government's "circuit breaker" measures are in place through June 1 — and Malaysia, where a "movement control order" will remain in effect through June 9, according to Mr. Daniels and other Morningstar executives based in the region.
Authorities in Australia, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Mumbai have yet to issue go-ahead orders.
But if lockdown policies are increasingly being lifted across the region, it's being done gently, with split-team arrangements resulting in less-crowded offices and employees being given ample room to remain at home if they wish.
That lack of urgency reflects, in part, the success money managers have had working from home this year as the coronavirus catapulted "social distancing" to the forefront of the public lexicon.