March 5, 2021

After Hurricane Irene, Markets Plan Business as Usual

The nation’s stock exchanges, after consulting with the Securities and Exchange Commission, said Sunday that they planned to open as usual on Monday morning. Wall Street banks said they, too, would be open for business as usual, and the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association said bond markets were on schedule as well.

The New York Stock Exchange, in a statement, said the decision to open on schedule followed a detailed review with New York City officials “of the operational readiness of metro area safety, power, water and transportation systems, in addition to a readiness assessment of our own trading and data center facilities.”

With negligible physical damage from Hurricane Irene, the question for Wall Street was whether mass transit would be able to get people onto the trading floors in Manhattan.

But even without subways and buses, the New York Stock Exchange and the companies that employ the traders on the floor of the exchange have contingency plans to help them function with minimal staff. Many of their employees live in Manhattan or expect to drive into the city, while others were put up in hotels over the weekend.

The New York Federal Reserve also was unaffected by the storm and was expecting employees to make transportation arrangements or to work remotely Monday if mass transit was still disrupted.

Exchanges like the N.Y.S.E. and Nasdaq, BATS Trading and Direct Edge, the nation’s big electronic exchanges, have their computer centers based in New Jersey, where they also have robust backup centers that survived the storm.

Nasdaq said it had moved some staff members to alternative sites ahead of the storm but was now ready to open its market as usual Monday. Rather than force employees to commute into Manhattan, however, it would start by operating its exchange from one of its parallel centers in an undisclosed location.

The New York Stock Exchange was last closed for a weather-related reason in 1996 because of a snow storm. It was also closed for a day in 1985 during Hurricane Gloria.

Before the weekend, Wall Street’s banks were putting in place contingency plans, talking to regulators and asking employees to check systems they could use for trading from home. Many have offices around the country and said they were prepared to switch more of their operations there if necessary.

Many of New York’s largest investment banks have their headquarters in Midtown Manhattan and thus fell outside the city’s designated evacuation zones. They were planning on opening for business as normal on Monday, although some were still looking at ways to transport staff into New York if mass transit was not functioning.

The banks reported no damage to their facilities, including Goldman Sachs, whose Battery Park City headquarters was included in Mayor Bloomberg’s evacuation order. A Goldman spokesman added that “people who need to work from home will be able to.”

After closing some of its operations over the weekend, American Express, based in the World Financial Center, said its office would be closed Monday and was asking people to work from home.

Credit Suisse said it was ready to open on Monday because of its contingency planning, including “the provision of accommodations and transportation for essential New York staff.” Citigroup also said it was looking at alternative transportation to help staff.

A spokesman from Deutsche Bank said that the bank would decide later Sunday whether employees would work from its 60 Wall Street headquarters or an alternate facility, depending on the state of mass transit.

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