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Rating:Fund Firms Brace for Hurricane Irene Not Rated 0.0 Email Routing List Email & Route  Print Print
Friday, August 26, 2011

Fund Firms Brace for Hurricane Irene

Reported by Armie Margaret Lee

With Hurricane Irene expected to make its way up the East Coast this weekend, The MFWire checked in with mutual fund firms to find out how they are preparing for the storm that is shaping up to be, in President Obama's words, a "historic hurricane."

In New York, employees of Cohen and Steers have been "provided and advised to review Business Continuity Plans and updated call trees," according to senior vice president of global marketing Tony Ialeggio. "All employees also advised to test their remote log-in access today to ensure it’s working and contact IT if there are any problems."

"The Executive Committee will monitor the weather situation as it develops and if necessary activate our BCP plans which will then be communicated to all employees through department heads and managers," he added.

OppenheimerFunds, for its part, "has extensive plans in place, which we test multiple times each year, to maintain our New York operations in the case of a business interruption event such as Hurricane Irene," wrote Jim Bailey senior vice president of corporate technology in an e-mail.

"We have activated our crisis communication response line to keep employees informed. Our technology group is on standby and prepared to enable our remote workforce capabilities and our Denver office is on alert to provide support. We began implementing our plans on Wednesday and are fully prepared to be in a position to conduct normal business operations on Monday morning," he added.

Dreyfus Corp. spokeswoman Patrice Kozlowski wrote in an e-mail: "Global Business Continuity group is implementing appropriate contingency plans to assure the safety of our employees and ongoing service to our clients."

In Boston, Amy Unckless, chief administrative officer of Columbia Management told The MFWire.com that the fund firm is encouraging employees on the East Coast to work from home on Monday. A notice went out today to employees to take their laptops with them. The memo also contains information such as call trees and a hotline number.

Unckless also noted that Columbia has trading desks in multiple locations -- New York, Boston, Minneapolis and Portland, Oregon -- and can shift trading operations as needed. Columbia has also reserved some blocks of hotel rooms in New York for traders who might have difficulty getting on and off the island of Manhattan.

As for its call centers, Columbia has one in Providence, Rhode Island that handles calls from individual investors and one in Boston that fields calls from advisors. Should one not be able to operate, the other can handle both sets of calls, Unckless said.

She also said Columbia has a disaster recovery site near the Providence call center.

At Fidelity, spokesman Adam Banker said: "As part of our regular planning process we have plans and procedures in plan to help the firm manage through adverse weather and continue to service our customers."

"Like many others, we're continuing to monitor the evolving weather conditons. While our operations will continue, the safety of our emploees is a top priority and we will take steps, including having some employees work from home or from alternate locations as needed," he continued.

"When adverse weather affects certain regions, the geographic distribution of our operations across the country helps us to to continue to provide service to our customers," Banker added.

Meanwhile, State Street "is currently monitoring the weather situation should Hurricane Irene impact the Northeast US as forecasted," according to spokeswoman Marie McGehee. "We expect to operate business as usual in our offices in these areas on Monday, August 29. We are taking necessary precautions, and we are prepared to invoke our business continuity strategies as necessary."

For its part, Pioneer Investments told its Boston employees and vendors this morning "to review disaster recovery plans for their departments today and to be alert for information from the company over the weekend on possible emergency plans if required by weather conditions," according to spokeman Geoff Smith. "Management will be monitoring the hurricane’s path over the weekend, and we expect to communicate with the staff via voicemail sometime on Sunday updating them on storm conditions and any emergency plans that are put in place."

Eaton Vance spokeswoman Robyn Tice wrote in an e-mail that the company is "closely monitoring the situation and paying close attention to the guidelines being issued by city and state officials. We are communicating with our employees and providing them with updated guidance as the situation develops."

At Natixis Global Associates, all associates will receive a message Sunday evening from the firm's automated crisis notification system, according to spokeswoman Jeanette Harrison-Sullivan. The message will "remind associates about our Hotline number and inform them of plans for Monday's work schedule," she wrote in an e-mailed statement.

NGA has also identified a "skeleton crew" to ensure the firm continues to meeet client needs in case the storm makes it difficult for employees to get to the office on Monday. The company also put together a priority list of employees who can work from home should the hurricane knock out power in the building.

In addition, NGA reminded employees to keep a copy of their business continuity wallet card and departmental plans in an accessible place at home.

Service provider Boston Financial Data Services is "very focused on delivering consistent and reliable service to our clients, and their investors and intermediaries," according to spokeswoman Ann Marie Mierzykowski. "We maintain a robust disaster recovery/business continuity program that is tested periodically and updated as needed. We are actively monitoring the status of Hurricane Irene and should we become impacted, we will activate those procedures necessary to continue business operations. Among other things, our multi-site strategy with locations across the country will allow us to redirect work and phone calls to offices in areas that are not affected."

In Baltimore, T. Rowe Price invoked its business continuity plan, "which includes the potential use of alternative work sites as well as back-up operations, technology, and communications systems to maintain the level of service our clients expect," according to spokeswoman Heather McDonold. "And, of course, we are urging our associates to put safety first and exercise caution in the face of this storm."

In an announcement to employees, Legg Mason officials said that "Corporate Real Estate and Technology Risk Management have been working all week with Property Management and local vendors to ensure all East Coast facilities are properly prepared for severe storm force weather. Preparations are complete and include items such as additional onsite staffing, 24 hour emergency watch and putting damage remediation service on stand-by." 

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