TD Ameritrade is first major custodian to enable all employees to work remotely

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As more cities urge residents to shelter in place due to the spread of coronavirus, TD Ameritrade has become the first major custodian to allow all of its employees to work remotely.

"One hundred percent of our workforce is now working from home,” spokeswoman Rebecca Niiya said in a statement. On March 24, about 90% of the firm’s 9,400 employees were already operating remotely. Employees with "business-critical functions" had still been coming in to the office, Niiya said.

TD Ameritrade’s 260 branches have been closed since March 20, and clients have been directed to reach financial consultants via phone or email.

George Tamer, managing director of strategic relationships at TD Ameritrade Institutional, told Financial Planning his team is meeting with RIAs through phones, webcasts and remote conferencing tool Zoom.

“Generally the team does in-person, face-to-face client meetings with our advisors either in their office or at industry events or events that we host — all that obviously stopped,” he says.

While the means of communication might be different, “the conversations are generally the same,” although the team has been fielding many questions specifically about virtual communication capabilities, he says.

TD Ameritrade is expected to be purchased later this year by competitor Charles Schwab, the largest U.S. custodian. Schwab has said some employees including network operations and call centers still need to come into the office currently, but it closed its branch network to the public last week and is allowing employees who have remote capabilities to work from home.

As for other custodians, Fidelity instructed any employees who could work remotely to do so on March 13. Approximately 90% of its global staff are currently working from home, according to a spokeswoman, who declined to specify which employees were still coming in.

A Pershing employee in its New Jersey office tested positive for the virus earlier this month and the firm temporarily closed the affected floor of that building. It was scheduled to reopen March 23, and a company spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment on whether it did so. According to BNY Mellon Pershing’s website, offices are still open. As a precaution, the company has implemented remote work arrangements and split operations across offices to help protect employees.

Meanwhile, the number of coronavirus cases continues to grow. By the afternoon of March 25, at least 59,502 people had tested positive for the virus in the U.S., according to a New York Times database, and at least 804 patients with the virus had died.

At least 18 states are urging their residents to remain inside, and cities from New York to Anchorage, Alaska, have closed businesses and ordered civilians to stay home, unless working essential jobs (which includes financial institutions). Wealth management firms have canceled conferences and unnecessary travel and are sending advisors and employees home.

TD Ameritrade says it already had a flexible work-from-home policy — approximately 15% of all its employees were working remotel on any given day, according to Niiya. The company started expanding its work-from-home policy March 17.

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Clearinghouses/custodians Workplace safety and security TD Ameritrade Coronavirus Diseases and conditions Employee communications Work from home