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Asia asset managers change work rules amid coronavirus pandemic

By Goh Thean Eu and Hui Ching-hoo  
March 24, 2020

Asian fund management firms have made key operational changes, including splitting up teams to minimise contact between employees, relocating them to other branches, and holding online meetings, to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

There are now over 290,000 infections worldwide and almost 13,000 deaths from Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, according to latest figures from the World Health Organisation.

In Malaysia, the worst hit country in Southeast Asia, Kuala Lumpur-based Kenanga Investors has a “solid and tested” business continuity plan that was implemented in early March, according to its Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director Ismitz Matthew De Alwis.

He says the company has grouped its employees into two teams to reduce contact among them, with each team further split up to work at different locations, including from their homes, at the office, or at the firm’s disaster recovery site.

“Our business continuity plan identified critical functions such as portfolio management and trading, some of which will continue to work from our premises,” Mr. De Alwis tells Asia Asset Management (AAM). “The split ensures that management of the portfolios can continue to run as usual, while considerably reducing risks for our colleagues and other stakeholders.”

Malaysia reported 1,306 coronavirus cases and 11 deaths as at March 23.

Taiwan’s Yuanta Securities Investment Trust is moving some employees from its headquarters in Taipei to other branches across the island as a precautionary measure, according to company Chairman Julian Liu.

“The move is to avoid the potential risk that the Covid-19 may bring down our business operation in the head office,” Mr. Liu tells AAM. “Also, our technical support is in place to make sure that our staff under quarantine are able to work from home.”

There were 195 reported infections and two deaths in Taiwan as at March 23.

Frederick Chu, head of exchange-traded funds at China Asset Management (Hong Kong), says the company’s business meetings have been reduced and the health condition of employees is being monitored regularly.

“We have also been shifting investor meetings, investment talks, and product promotion from physical to digital. Overall, the practice does not cause too much inconvenience for portfolio managers’ daily work,” Mr. Chu tells AAM.

Hong Kong had 318 cases and four deaths from Covid-19 as at March 23.