International banks in London’s famous Square Mile were battling to house and transport key staff on Thursday after four blasts killed at dozens of people and severely disrupted bus and train services.
The deadly explosions, which injured more than 300 people during the morning rush hour, left banks scrambling to implement disaster plans and thousands of workers facing a long trek home and back again on Friday.
Several banks said they planned to put key staff up in hotels overnight and organize for others to work from home.
Britain’s Barclays closed 17 bank branches after the blasts and shut about 100 branches about an hour early on Thursday, a spokeswoman said.
The third-largest U.K. bank was hiring buses and planned to use boats on the river Thames to transport staff.
French bank Societe Generale said it was looking to organize accommodation and transport for staff to ensure its London operations continued as usual.
A spokeswoman said the bank intended to operate normally on Friday.
“People are shocked. That being said, it is business as usual. Essential staff will be coming into work, others will be working remotely from home,” said Michael Hintze, chief executive of hedge fund CSG Management Limited.
U.S. bank Citigroup said its operations were largely unaffected by the London explosions.
“We expect to be fully operational on Friday, although with reduced staff in some locations,” a spokesman said.
Bomb threat returns
The bomb attacks are the first real terrorist threat to London’s financial community since 1996, when IRA guerrillas detonated a large bomb in London’s Docklands area, known as Canary Wharf and home to a new financial district housing many large banks and law firms.
The biggest attack on the City was a devastating 1993 bomb, also detonated by the IRA, which flattened large areas of Bishopsgate not far from the site of one of Thursday’s blasts.
While thousands of workers struggled on Thursday with the damaged transport system, the City’s key financial markets were functioning normally, although stock market investors faced big losses after a heavy sell-off.
London’s main stock market index, the FTSE 100, suffered its biggest one-day point fall since August, closing down 1.4 percent at 5,158.3. The fall wiped out around 17 billion pounds ($29.7 billion) off the value of the U.K.’s top 100 companies.
Exchanges weather volatility
In the immediate aftermath of the explosions, the London Clearing House, LCH.Clearnet, which settles stock market, commodity and energy trades, was evacuated and operations shifted to its disaster recovery site.
The London Stock Exchange and pan-European bourse operator Euronext.Liffe operated normally. Trading on the interbank electronic foreign exchange broker EBS was active and functioned in an orderly manner.
A spokesman at CLS, which settles a large proportion of trades in the largely over-the-counter $1.9 trillion-a-day foreign exchange market, said all trades had settled as usual.
Most major banks in and around the City, including UBS AG, Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co, Deutsche Bank AG and Merrill Lynch, said business had carried on as usual.
Some banks called on colleagues in New York to come in early to help out with trading.
At a business conference on the edge of the financial district where Israeli Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was due to speak, police rushed to evacuate delegates after news of the blasts.