Boston's financial district deserted as people work from home

  • World
  • Friday, 19 Apr 2013

(Reuters) - The streets of Boston's financial district, usually bustling with activity, were nearly empty on Friday as staff worked from home during a virtual lockdown of the city while police hunted a suspect wanted in Monday's bombings.

Boston is a major centre for U.S. fund management companies, with about 20 percent of the nearly $15 trillion (9.8 trillion pounds) of U.S. mutual funds and exchange-traded funds, according to Lipper.

Eaton Vance Corp, a fund manager overseeing $255 billion, and Citigroup Inc advised their employees dealing with institutional customers to work from home.

With public transit shut down, "the only way anyone can get to work is drive or walk, if they live nearby," said Robyn Tice, an Eaton Vance spokeswoman. "People are being asked to decide what makes most sense."

Many of Eaton Vance employees made it in to the office, including top executives and portfolio managers, but Tice, who lives near the spot where one of two suspects was killed in a gun battle with police, said she was turned around by a trooper on her way to a morning exercise class before work.

Much of the city came to a standstill after police killed one suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing and mounted a search for the other.

Authorities urged everyone to stay at home, public transportation throughout the metropolitan area was suspended, and air space was restricted.

Larry Peruzzi, who runs Cabrera Capital Markets' international trading desk from downtown Boston, walked into his office at 7:45 a.m. Friday morning and told his two-person early morning crew to immediately leave and prepare to work from home while he and his day-shift colleagues settled in for a long day at the office that he anticipated could extend overnight.

Peruzzi said that based on emails sent out to his trading community colleagues locally, most are not working today. "A whole city like this shuts down for the day with amazing economic ramifications," he said.

Cabrera, a broker-dealer for institutional investors, is fortunate because its headquarters are in Chicago and Peruzzi's international team can push orders to its offices there and in New York, which focus on U.S. trading, he said.

Peruzzi's normal half-hour commute by train from suburban Abington, Massachusetts, turned into an hour-long ride by car.

"The highway was just packed, and crawling," he said in a phone interview. "It was just eerie. There is low cloud cover so you can't see the tops of the building and electronic message boards are flashing directions and amber alerts. I'm looking out the window and a military helicopter is flying by."

(Reporting by Svea Herbst in Boston, and Jennifer Ablan, Lauren Young, Jed Horowitz and Dan Wilchins in New York; Editing by Paritosh Bansal and Kenneth Barry)

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