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Banks Struggle With Sandy Aftermath

Banks Struggle With Sandy Aftermath

JPMorgan, Citibank, Bank of America – they’re all facing tough decisions and are having to find a way to come full circle with the devastation Hurricane Sandy left in her wake. It could prove even more difficult than having to testify in front of Congress for some of these CEOs. Here’s a bit of what’s going on following Sandy’s arrival and departure.

All realize that getting around in parts of the northeast is simply impossible and they know it will remain that way for quite some time. Not only that, but many banks are now uninhabitable along the east coast so consumers may find themselves having to find another branch to conduct business. Not only are their customers inconvenienced, but many employees are struggling with picking up the pieces of their lives, as well. With no transportation, many are stranded.

In an almost “too little too late” environment, those who did not pull cash from their bank accounts or credit cards are facing tough realities: no electricity means no access to computers and ATMs.

Flush With Cash

JPMorgan Chase prepped more than 3,200 ATMs in the predicted landfall zone by making them flush with cash. Bank officials knew that many would be pulling cash out ahead of the storm even as others continued to believe the storm wouldn’t be “that bad”. Unfortunately, she was that bad – and more.

There are more than 1,000 Chase branches in and around the area affected by Hurricane Sandy and ahead of its arrival, many of those bank branches were open over the weekend. Now, Chase will consider it a successful post-Sandy comeback if it’s able to open 100 branches this week. It’s focusing on getting those branches that are most convenient to the most number of Chase customers up and going fast. But it also has staffing issues to contend with. Many of those employees are left stranded, too.

There are sure to be some that lost everything and they won’t be able to return to work as quickly as those who fared better. The bank has in place 150 generators, along with plenty of diesel, so that they can get power to ATMs and computers. They’ve brought aboard additional security crowds to ensure crowds are contained and that they’re able to get out of the door and safely on their way. Looters have already begun wreaking havoc, so armed robbery isn’t an unrealistic concern.

Before all of this happens, Chase has lined up hundreds of inspectors to ensure their customers are safe while in a Chase building, too.


Meanwhile, Citigroup reports it has 400 branches that were in the path of the storm. The goal on Wednesday is to reopen as many branches as it can safely do. As of late Tuesday, it was preparing to open some branches in the D.C. area, as well as Virginia, Maryland and Massachusetts in the afternoon – provided they could safely do so. It too faces the problem of making contact with employees to determine who might be able to come in to work.

Bank of America was unable to provide numbers in terms of how many branches it had closed ahead of the storm, but it said its New York City, Washington, Pennsylvania and Connecticut branches were closed. It’s not released any pressers as to how soon it might return to some degree of operation.

Understanding that many bank customers have no access to internet, electricity and only limited phone service, it’s entirely likely bank officials will do their best to get into the communities to let as many consumers know what’s available. Bringing in extra personnel for everything from security to telecommunications will help; but it can only go so far as hundreds of cities are doing their best to get residents first, with electricity and second, by dealing with the transportation crisis that many are already feeling.

“It’s Just Unprecedented”

It’s just unprecedented. We knew a bad storm was coming and many prepared for the worst but knowing all the preparations in the world weren’t going to be enough to keep this storm at at bay. We’re in crisis mode and we’re in a reactive mode. There’s not much we can do from a proactive stance at this time. But we’re working on it,

said on JPMorgan Chase employee we spoke to late Tuesday evening.

We have customers and employees throughout the hardest hit region and their safety is our main consideration,

said Brian T. Moynihan, chief executive officer of Bank of America.

As we do what we can to help them through this, we also are doing our part to help get relief to communities affected.

Indeed, it’s going to be a long and difficult road back to recovery. But with lessons learned from past storms, committed communities that are determined to help out their neighbors and bank executives willing to go the extra mile, it can be done and this can someday be an example to future storm survivors.

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