Camaraderie, hard work typify office lockdowns for finance workers
For Ji Yuqing, a 26-year-old trader at Industrial Bank's Shanghai branch, life has never been so challenging. Memories of the moments of being on duty alone during the lockdown still linger.
He is among nearly 20,000 professionals that have been stationed in their offices to ensure the uninterrupted operations of the city's financial industry during Shanghai's COVID-19 lockdown.
So what was the nature of their office life? Let's recap some of their tense moments to get a taste.
One day during the lockdown, the Industrial Bank attempted to make an interbank deposit transaction with an overseas counterpart, but due to a shortage of money in the other party's account bank, the funds could not arrive in time.
Knowing the importance of keeping money moving during this special period, Ji did not put an end to this deal right away, but tried his best to fix the problem.
Through into the night, the young man kept communicating with relevant departments of the head office and the Shanghai branch while staying in close contact with the counterparties.
At 9:30pm, an agreement was finally reached with patience of all, and a crisis was narrowly averted.
Such emergency situations rolled on, one after another, and, much to the lender's relief, Ji, together with his co-workers have helped complete nearly 200 lending transactions since mid-March.
As a member of the Fixed Income, Currencies and Commodities (FICC) team, Ji is mainly responsible for liquidity management and treasury transactions in Industrial Bank's business in China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone.
He still remembers the day he kissed goodbye to his mother and volunteered to be stationed at the office with only two T-shirts and some daily necessities in his luggage. He is still there after more than two months.
"I thought the pandemic would end soon, but beyond everybody's expectations, it has lasted for more than two months."
Away from home for such a long while, Ji admitted that he missed his family members and his two kittens.
"To tell the truth, I hope I can return to my normal working life and I am very much looking forward to the day when Shanghai will be busy again," the bank officer added.
Zhu Yunhao, an Information Technology Center worker at the Shanghai branch of China Guangfa Bank, recalled that what has impressed him most was the whirring sounds of computer fans and the click of keyboards in the office.
A result of the pandemic, the demand for telecommuting among business units surged and, accordingly, the bank worked on solutions to ensure better access to the new mobile working habits.
On the night when Shanghai issued a phased lockdown notice to curb an Omicron-fuelled COVID-19 outbreak, Zhu and other colleagues in the IT center did another round of overnight debugging of equipment and software.
For two whole days on March 27 and 28, he said the IT staff remained in "a state of high tension" to maintain the bank's business as normal. That was in addition to being responsible for the connection and debugging of systems at a spare office site and the special connection to the local regulatory bureau.
"Fortunately, we lived up to our mission, and all business went well," Zhu said with great pride.
Poppy Hu, chief administrative officer of China at Schroders Investment Management (Shanghai) Co, told Shanghai Daily that at present, the company's office in Lujiazui, Shanghai's equivalent of Wall Street, remains closed and employees mainly used telecommuting to maintain business operations.
While mobilizing resources from offices in other cities, the global investment manager also organized online communication with peers and clients to ensure the orderly development of its business.
Despite the support of various technologies, strict control measures have brought certain challenges to the normal operation of the company, Hu said.
Sun Jiandong, chairman of Nanyang Commercial Bank (China) led 11 key employees to settle in their head office building from the start of the city's lockdown to ensure business operations proceed.
Aside from their busy work, the frontline troops of the Hong Kong-based bank played ball games, did workouts and offered haircuts for co-workers as diversions to the daily lockdown routine.
Jiang Yunpeng, a staffer in the bank's operations section, said he greatly appreciated the special experience of lockdown at work. It has helped him forge more close ties with colleagues.
"Since I left campus, there has been little collective life like this. Thankfully, I stepped outside my comfort zone and merged into a bigger social network," the young man said.
The only big trouble they have encountered so far was not bringing enough clothes to get them through the long duration lockdown.
"When we settled in at the end of March, everyone wore down jackets, but now you know the summer is coming," he said, adding that the bank was considering buying a batch of new clothes for them.
Talking of his biggest wish when the lockdown is lifted, the 39-year-old banking officer said he wanted to improve his cooking skills and host a dinner party for his family and friends.