• Bloomberg


The rapid spread of the new coronavirus has prompted the Bank of Japan to ask major banks how prepared they are for a worsening of the outbreak, people with knowledge of the matter said.

Initial findings from the talks indicate that large financial institutions are well placed to deal with the situation, the people said, asking not to be identified. The lenders have contingency plans involving different office locations that will prevent disruptions to key tasks such as market-related operations, they said.

The risks to the banking system came into focus Thursday when Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc., the nation’s biggest lender, became the first major bank to report an infection in the country.

Japan’s biggest banks have been allowing employees to work from home or on staggered shifts to avoid crowded trains that could increase the possibility of infection. Some nonfinancial firms have gone a step further, with advertising giant Dentsu Group Inc. ordering staff to work from home after an employee tested positive for the virus.

MUFG said an employee at a branch in Aichi Prefecture is hospitalized and in stable condition after being found infected this week. The Tokyo-based lender said it has disinfected the outlet and decided to keep it open after consulting with health authorities.

Concerns about the disease are also intensifying in Tokyo’s financial district after developer Mitsubishi Estate Co. said Wednesday that an infected person had visited the Shin-Marunouchi Building, a prominent skyscraper in the business district in Chiyoda Ward.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has called for major sporting and cultural events to be called off, postponed or scaled down over the next two weeks to prevent the spread of the virus. Japan has 186 confirmed cases so far, excluding those from the cruise ship Diamond Princess.

Banks including Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. are urging staff to take holidays as well as work from home. MUFG is limiting large external meetings and asking workers to avoid meals with clients.

Brokerages such as Daiwa Securities Group Inc. have canceled seminars for customers. Nomura Holdings Inc., the nation’s largest, is restricting nonessential travel to countries stricken by the new coronavirus.

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