Return of bankers in Buenos Aires in doubt due to covid cases

(Bloomberg) – Several of Argentina’s largest banks managed to get more employees back to headquarters as the number of coronavirus cases declined in South America’s second-largest economy. An increase in the case count now calls that path into question.

Around 50% of BBVA Argentina’s bankers attend twice a week, although the office is closed on Wednesdays for deep cleanings. Banco Santander Río, the largest private financial institution in the country in terms of assets, last month reached the goal of having up to 40% of its employees in the office for at least half of the week, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter. who asked not to be identified discussing company policy.

While cashiers and other workers serving retail clients returned to their workplaces in the middle of last year, investment bankers, analysts, and back-office employees have made a slower return amid around 2.4 million coronavirus cases and more than 56,000 deaths. Less than 10% of Argentines have received the first dose of the vaccine, and the government warns that cases could increase again as winter approaches in South America.

The country reported a record 20,870 daily cases Tuesday night, adding to speculation that authorities will step up confinement measures at home.

Globally, banks have had mixed results in trying to convince employees to return to the office. Wall Street firms had to reverse plans after a sharp spike in covid cases in December and January, and have now moved toward adopting some form of permanent remote work for many employees, even as the deployment of the vaccinations makes it less risky to return to the office. In neighboring Brazil, Itaú Unibanco Holding SA is evaluating allowing a third of its staff to alternate between remote work and going to the office.

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Argentina has been hit hard by the pandemic despite initially establishing one of the strictest restrictions on the continent. Now, after a partial reopening, the government is once again reducing flights from neighboring countries and last month published a list of guidelines that would allow provincial authorities to stop certain activities if necessary. Additional regulations could alter the banks’ current plans.

This is how Argentine banks have organized their return to their offices in recent months:

BBVA Argentina, a unit of Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA

The bank has had 50% of its employees working in its offices since mid-March, divided into two groups that attend two days a week, said the manager of people and securities of BBVA in Argentina, Rosana Rueda. the maximum amount possible, ”said Rueda

Banco Santander Río, a unit of Banco Santander SA

Santander Río started a plan in February to allow up to 40% of its workers to return to the office during the middle of the week, but the measure only gained ground in mid-March, as the bank had trouble convincing employees, According to the person familiar with the matter, the bank has also reduced office space. A recent real estate swap cut capacity in some areas by a third, the person said. If all workers wanted to return to the office, some would not find space to do so Plans will be adjusted according to the health situation, with the aim of taking care of employees, customers and suppliers, said a Santander spokesman.

Banco de Galicia y Buenos Aires SA

Galicia is also bringing its employees back, but at a much slower rate than some of its rivals Around 10-15% of head office workers have returned to bank buildings, according to a spokesperson, while branches have about half their employees The bank is not pushing for a faster return because it expects a wave of cases in the winter, according to a spokesperson

Supervielle Group

Supervielle will keep its employees in person in the treasury, compensation and mailroom departments, according to a person with direct knowledge Only 3% of employees are back at the bank’s headquarters, compared to 100% of employees who they work in bank branches

Original Note: Buenos Aires Bankers’ Return to Office Imperiled By Covid Surge

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