Compliance

US Bankers, Others Left Stranded As Hong Kong Shuts Flights – Media

Editorial Staff, January 14, 2022

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Hong Kong - a key entry destination for mainland China and home to many global banks' Asian headquarters – has a "zero-COVID" policy, contrasting with that of certain other rival jurisdictions. Bankers have been left stranded due to flight restrictions, a report said.

Bank executives at Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and UBS are struggling to return to Hong Kong after the jurisdiction banned flights from eight countries to deal with the pandemic, Bloomberg reported.

At least a dozen Hong Kong-based managing directors at banks, also including Morgan Stanley and UBS, are stranded in countries from the US to Australia, the report said, citing unnamed sources. Those stranded include division heads in investment banking, wealth and asset management and other functions.

This news service has contacted the banks for comment, and may update in due course. It has been told from industry sources that once the “bonus season” is completed by early spring this year, a number of Western bankers working in Hong Kong are likely to leave. Besides the anti-COVID restrictions, another factor is that Hong Kong has become a less welcoming place for non-Westerners after Beijing imposed a national security law on the former British colony in 2020.

As the Bloomberg report noted, the flight restrictions add to a difficult environment in what had been a relatively liberal city, an important entrepôt for mainland China. Many global banks have Asian headquarters in Hong Kong.

Officials are tightening controls to prevent the Omicron variant from spreading as part of China’s zero-COVID strategy. Earlier in January, flights from the UK and US to Hong Kong were banned for a fortnight from January 8. The situation raises questions over whether Beijing’s zero-COVID policy is wise, particularly as rival hubs such as London, Singapore and Dubai are seeking to live with the virus, albeit with heavy restrictions in some cases.

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