The majority of big banks and accounting firms do their business in New York, London, Hong Kong, and Tokyo. But they couldn’t run without their back offices, many of which are in Covid-ravaged India. In recent decades, financial services companies have outsourced a large number of information technology and operations workers to India, drawn by an educated workforce and lower labour costs. According to the National Association of Software and Service Companies, nearly 4.4 million workers work in IT and business process management in the region.
As India faces the world’s largest coronavirus epidemic, several financial institutions are racing to assist staff and contractors. More than 300,000 cases were registered for the 12th day in a row on Monday. Deaths have also been increasing at an unprecedented pace, and the country’s health-care system is nearing capacity.
Banks are moving jobs to other nations, allowing employees to work from home, and stretching project deadlines in order to keep their operations online. Indian companies that provide services to Wall Street are taking extra precautions to protect their employees in cities such as Bangalore, Pune, Hyderabad, and Delhi, including the establishment of Covid care centres for employees and their families in some cases.
What Wall Street is doing?
Remote job, which is used by almost all workers at Goldman Sachs (GS) and Wells Fargo (WFC), is one step toward keeping the workforce healthy and businesses running. According to a spokesperson for Wells Fargo, the bank is not facing “major impacts” to its operations. It has provided more than $3 million in grants to local communities. Last week, Goldman Sachs revealed a $10 million donation to help India fight the pandemic. Bangalore, Hyderabad, and Mumbai are the locations of the investment bank’s offices.
“Our focus is on the overall health and safety of our people and their families, during this unprecedented health crisis in India,” said Gunjan Samtani, head of Goldman Sachs Services in India. “We continue to be resilient in the execution of our business functions.”
How London responding?
UK banks Barclays (BCS), NatWest (NWG), and Standard Chartered (SCBFF) are redirecting work to other countries in some cases to alleviate pressure on workers in India, many of whom have become sick or have care obligations at home. “We are shifting some capacity to the UK and appreciate what our colleagues here are doing,” Barclays CEO Jes Staley said on a call with reporters on Friday. Barclays employs roughly 20,000 people in India, making it the bank’s largest employee hub outside Britain.
Barclays has expanded its donations to local charities for critical items such as food, gloves, and oxygen concentrators, and it has provided staff with extra medical benefits to cover Covid-related health costs. The bank, which employs 13,000 people in India almost entirely in back office positions, has not relocated any functions but is extending delivery times for non-essential projects in order to handle workloads. The company provides employees with access to digital medical facilities as well as reimbursement for Covid-19 vaccinations. It is also contributing funds to help with the distribution of vaccines in India and elsewhere.
Standard Chartered Bank India said in a statement shared with CNN Business that it is providing private transportation to employees who may work in an office and has secured hospitalisation and other critical care items such as medical oxygen for its employees. By collaborating with local health authorities and hospitals, the bank is also organising vaccination drives for workers and their families in Bangalore and Chennai.
This year, HSBC (HSBC), which employs 39,000 people in India, will donate $11.5 million to Covid relief efforts, including vaccine distributions through the global shot programme Covax.
Following the announcement by the Indian government that adults over the age of 18 will be eligible for vaccines beginning May 1, the bank is mobilising efforts to get doses to employees.
Global tech giants
Amazon (AMZN) is stockpiling Covid-19 treatment equipment, such as oxygen concentrators and oximeters, for its India staff, while also offering hotel rooms to workers and their families with mild symptoms so they can separate, according to Amit Agarwal, the company’s India manager, in a blog post. According to him, the e-commerce company has also extended its sick leave policy in India to include those caring for sick families, as well as set up a helpline to assist workers in finding hospital beds, ambulances, and oxygen.
According to the firm, it also airlifted ventilators and oxygen concentrators into India last week to assist with the crisis.
Twitter (TWTR), one of the social media sites used by Indians to crowd-source hospital beds and oxygen cylinders, announced several product updates to provide users with validated information and link them to relief organisations. According to a blog post, the company is matching employee contributions to many organisations at 300 percent and has made a separate $100,000 donation to India’s Hemkunt Foundation.
The video conferencing platform Zoom said that it is “focused on providing support and services to our employees across India.” Zoom’s India head Sameer Raje wrote in a blog post that the company, which has operations in Bangalore, Mumbai, and Hyderabad, has also donated to several organisations and provided free access to its website to thousands of schools in India.