As the Covid-19 rollercoaster ride heads deep into its second year, with heavily orchestrated vaccine campaigns and sometimes conflicting reports about the benefits of masks, much of the financial services industry is still hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.
While a growing list of large municipalities like New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco and high-profile enterprises like the New York Stock Exchange introduce rules requiring vaccinations, financial services in general is still choosing the carrot over the stick when it comes to vaccines.
BNY Mellon Pershing is among the first companies in the industry to go forward with plans to require employees to get vaccinated before returning to the office.
In addition to postponing plans for returning to the office, “based on recent pandemic-related developments and evolving guidance from the medical community,” Pershing is introducing a vaccination mandate.
“In an effort to provide the safest possible in-office experience for our employees, where permitted by local regulations, vaccines will be required for entry into offices, effective Sept. 6. However, there will be reasonable accommodations for medical reasons or religious beliefs,” said BNY Mellon spokesperson Erin Smith in an emailed statement.
The Vanguard Group Inc. stands out among financial services industry firms by offering $1,000 to employees who get vaccinated by October, but is still not introducing any requirements around vaccines.
“Vanguard recognizes vaccines are the best way to stop the spread of this virus and strongly encourages crew to be vaccinated,” said Vanguard spokesperson Freddy Martino.
At Charles Schwab & Co., company spokesperson Pete Greenley said employees are not yet required to get the vaccine, but: “We encourage employees to review the Covid-19 vaccine benefits and to get a vaccine if it is right for them. In light of the new Covid-19 variants and increased hospitalizations across the country, we have decided to delay our full return to office until January 2022.”
At T Rowe Price Group Inc., where employees are “encouraged to get vaccinated based on CDC and government regulations,” but not required to do so, the target date for returning to the office has been extended to Oct. 18.
“We made this decision to help reduce the potential for continued community spread of the Delta variant and to support a safer working environment,” said T. Rowe spokesperson Robert Matthews. “We will continue to evaluate our plans in conjunction with government and health officials.”
Then there is BlackRock Inc., which recently pushed its return-to-office plans back to October as the Delta variant gained steam, but the offices are currently open for vaccinated employees, according to spokesperson Aziz Nayani.
“We’re not mandating vaccines, but we’ve asked employees to voluntarily report their vaccination status,” he said. “Those employees who reported they are fully vaccinated are permitted to work from the office, though they can continue to work from home through Oct. 1 if they’d like. Fully vaccinated visitors are also allowed in our U.S. offices.”
Fidelity Investments Co.’ policies are unchanged for a few months ago, which include encouraging, but not requiring employees to get vaccinated.
More than just letting people back in the office, the Financial Planning Association is navigating toward its bold decision to go ahead with its annual conference, scheduled for Sept. 22 through 24 in Columbus, Oho.
FPA spokesperson Ben Lewis said they haven’t introduced any policies related to vaccines but, “We are continuing to monitor things and will follow CDC recommendations and guidelines in partnership with Columbus Public Health, Franklin County and the Greater Columbus Convention Center.”
At Morningstar Inc., “the majority of our global colleagues continue to successfully work remotely, although our global offices have implemented safety protocols including masks and distancing requirements and most are open to colleagues who choose it,” according to spokesperson Erin Parro.
“We continue to encourage our colleagues make use of vaccines as they are available to them, however, today we do not require vaccination for office access,” she added.
Among financial advisers, the message is no less consistent. Shelly Kapoor, chief operating officer at Arnerich Massena, said plans are in place for employees to return to a “newly constructed space, designed for safety and flexibility.”
“We are strongly encouraging employees to get vaccinated, and we are quickly adapting our policies, such as requiring masks, based on current Oregon regulations and CDC recommendations,” he added.
Jeff Farrar, co-founder and executive managing director at Procyon Partners, said his firm has been open to employees since July 2020 “taking appropriate precautions.”
“We strongly encourage the vaccine, just like we do with the flu shot to keep people healthy,” he said. “We do not require it as we think that is a bit much for any business.”
In terms of vaccine mandate policies, Farrar does not mince words.
“Do you really want the government telling you what to do here? Where do you draw the line?” he said. “That could be a slippery slope we would rather not get on. In my state, Connecticut, we don’t even mandate motorcycle helmet laws, so if you want to be stupid and kill yourself, go ahead.”
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Andrew is half-human, half-gamer. He’s also a science fiction author writing for BleeBot.