October 29, 2012 6:14 pm

Banks close branches in path of hurricane

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Large US banks shut hundreds of retail branches across the country’s northeastern coast on Monday as they braced themselves for the worst effects of hurricane Sandy.

Citibank, Bank of America and Wells Fargo were among banks that closed branches in the path of the storm. Citi closed in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Connecticut, New Jersey and Delaware.

“Citi has contingency plans in place, including locations that can be utilised to ensure continuity of operations. Citi is committed to providing uninterrupted service to our clients during the storm and seeks to minimise any possible impact,” said Shannon Bell, a Citi spokeswoman.

Bank of America said its New York City branches would be closed on Monday, while Wells Fargo, which has more than a thousand retail locations in Sandy’s path, said it had shut more than 150 branches.

In anticipation of a storm-related cash crunch and any delays in paying bills, Chase – the retail banking arm of JPMorgan Chase – and Citi said they would waive overdraft, ATM and late fees for their customers in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and other areas affected by hurricane Sandy over the next 72 hours.

Customers at Chase were told they had until the end of business on Thursday to make a deposit or payment to balance their accounts and avoid additional fees.

Chase had spent the past few days preparing for hurricane Sandy. The bank last week ensured ATMs in the tri-state area had additional cash reserves, while opening hours were extended on Saturday.

Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan and Citi were among Wall Street companies planning to shift their operations to other cities and have staff work from home.

Citi said it would operate from a back-up trading floor in New Jersey and shuttle essential staff there as necessary. JPMorgan said it would be fully operational and would use back-up trading and technology from Europe or Asia if necessary. Goldman said only staff critical to operations would be needed in its Manhattan offices, while others would work from its Connecticut and New Jersey bases.

Bank of America closed offices at the World Financial Center but its New York headquarters at Bryant Park and others will remain open, said Mark Pipitone, a spokesman.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York said its cash operations were “open and operational” on Monday. However, it added that settlement of Monday’s Treasury securities sale would be delayed until Wednesday.

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