Wall Street is racing to support thousands of employees in the Lone Star State, as Texas battles the ongoing fallout of a historic winter storm that has killed dozens and left tens of thousands still without power.
In a year in which financial institutions told vast swathes of their workforces to work from home during the coronavirus pandemic, Texas-based employees of financial institutions like Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, and Charles Schwab are facing increased challenges as a result of severe weather conditions that have cut off their access to water, heat, and WiFi.
Those firms are implementing measures to try to support their teams on the ground, multiple banks and brokerages told Insider.
Citigroup, which has approximately 8,500 staffers working in Texas, has converted its corporate office spaces in the cities of San Antonio and Irving into warming stations, a spokesperson for the company told Insider.
Employees can visit the sites to get warm, charge their electronic devices, and obtain water and granola bars that the firm is providing. Most of those employees work in operations and technology-related roles, as the bank does not operate a consumer branch footprint in the state.
The firm opened the warming facilities on Feb. 16, and the spokesperson said that they will remain open and available to employees until the crisis abates. Coronavirus-related safety measures are also being taken at the sites as the pandemic continues, the company noted.
On LinkedIn, Sara Wechter, Citi’s head of human resources, shared a post Thursday, telling the firm’s teams in Texas: “For our colleagues in Texas without power for days, our buildings continue to be available for those who need support. Please reach out to your manager if you need somewhere to shelter.”
Other firms like Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase are also taking measures to support their workers
Other firms, too, are implementing measures to support their employees in Texas.
A representative for Goldman Sachs, which has a significant presence across four offices in Texas, told Insider that the firm is prioritizing the safety and wellness of its teams on the ground there and “monitoring the situation closely and extending the firm’s support to those impacted, including those experiencing personal hardships.”
The company is working with employees who have lost the ability to do their work from home as a result of power or Internet outages. It also said that it is in contact with local organizations “to determine how we can help as impacted communities manage through the strains caused by the loss of electricity and food shortages.”
Goldman Sachs is among a number of financial firms that, in recent years, have moved some operational employees to lower-cost hubs including its center in Dallas as part of cost-savings strategies. The firm now counts slightly fewer than 2,000 employees in the Dallas area, many of them concentrated in a downtown Dallas skyscraper that Goldman moved into in 2018, and several hundred in Houston.
A representative for Charles Schwab said that 95% of its teams were already working remotely due to the coronavirus pandemic, and it had temporarily shut down its campuses in Austin and the Dallas-Fort Worth area through Friday. As part of its acquisition of TD Ameritrade, Charles Schwab moved its headquarters to the Fort Worth suburb of Westlake this year, and already more than 2,500 employees work at the new offices.
What’s more, the brokerage said, its travel department has been in communication with employees to assist them with searches for lodging or transportation solutions, should they require it, and directing staffers to locations where they can find heat and water.
To help alleviate the workload, Schwab is directing some business operations to their 14 other employment centers and branch network workers nationwide “so those in Texas can focus on their safety, and that of their families, first.”
Dozens are dead and tens of thousands of Texans remain without power
While power has been restored to millions in Texas, the state still faces an urgent situation.
More than 180,000 customers in Texas remained without power as of Friday afternoon, according to the site poweroutage.us. That is, however, a marked improvement from conditions earlier this week when more than four million customers had lost electricity as a result of the storm and decisions taken by electrical providers to impose blackouts in order to protect their grids.
Temperatures plummeted to record lows earlier this week, with the storm dropping as much as three to five inches of snow in some parts of the state in the proximity of the Dallas Fort-Worth area, according to KXAS-TV, the local NBC-affiliated news channel in the area. Weather conditions are improving and temperatures are predicted to rise in the coming days.
Conditions on the ground remain dire, though: Local officials have ordered as many as seven million residents of the state to boil water in order to avoid ingesting bacteria after the frigid conditions harmed some water pipes, the Associated Press reported, noting that at least the deaths of at least 59 people in multiple states have been attributed to the storm.