May.03 -- Soumya Swamainathan, chief scientist at the World Health Organization, discusses India’s devastating second wave of coronavirus and what can be done to help ease the crisis. She speaks on “Bloomberg Markets: European Open.”
- CBS News Videos
A top science adviser is warning India's government to prepare for a third and more devastating coronavirus wave, even as the country saw a record 412,000 new cases reported in 24 hours. Washington Post global opinions writer Rana Ayyub spoke with CBSN's Tanya Rivero about the situation in India and concerns political pressure is covering up the true extent of the crisis.
(Bloomberg) -- About 8,300 miles east of Wall Street, on a stretch of Bangalore’s Outer Ring Road, sits what was once the heart of the global financial industry’s back office.Before the pandemic, this cluster of glass-and-steel towers housed thousands of employees at firms like Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and UBS Group AG who played critical roles in everything from risk management to customer service and compliance.Now the buildings are eerily empty. And with case counts soaring across Bangalore and much of India, work-from-home arrangements that have sustained Wall Street’s back-office operations for months are coming under intense strain. A growing number of employees are either sick or scrambling to find critical medical supplies such as oxygen for relatives or friends.Standard Chartered Plc said last week that about 800 of its 20,000 staffers in India were infected. As many as 25% of employees in some teams at UBS are absent, said an executive at the firm who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of losing his job. At Wells Fargo & Co.’s offices in Bangalore and Hyderabad, work on co-branded cards, balance transfers and reward programs is running behind schedule, an executive said.While banks have so far avoided major disruptions by shifting tasks to other offshore hubs, India’s Covid crisis has exposed a little-discussed vulnerability for companies that have spent decades outsourcing functions to the country. India’s outbreak is intensifying even as vaccinations fuel economic recoveries in other parts of the world, heightening fears of a back-office bottleneck at a time when Wall Street firms have rarely been busier.“This is not a local, India-only problem, this is a global crisis,” said D.D. Mishra, senior director analyst at researcher Gartner Inc. The current wave will be “significantly bigger” and organizations with India-based staff “will need to take action to plan for and mitigate if needed,” Mishra and his colleagues wrote in a note last week.Nasscom, the key lobby group for India’s $194 billion outsourcing industry and its almost 5 million employees, has downplayed the threat to operations. But Mishra and fellow analysts at Gartner say they’re fielding a daily flood of calls from anxious global clients asking about the Covid-19 situation.India’s total coronavirus infections have risen to 21.5 million, of which about a third were added since mid-April. The state of Karnataka, whose capital is Bangalore, reported almost 50,000 new infections for a second straight day, with 30% of all results throwing up a positive result.Experts have warned the crisis has the potential to worsen in the coming weeks, with one model predicting as many as 1,018,879 deaths by the end of July, quadrupling from the current official count of 234,083. A model prepared by government advisers suggests the wave could peak in the coming days, but the group’s projections have been changing and were wrong last month.In Bangalore, Delhi and Mumbai, the three main bases for the financial giants’ operations, infection rates have reached such alarming levels that local governments have ordered stringent restrictions on movement.While the crisis has hit swathes of the nation’s $2.9 trillion economy, the latest wave has notably affected the twenty-something segment of the population that dominates outsourcing companies and is hard to replace. Most of them are English-speaking, technically-skilled workers.Continuity PlanningFor now, back-office units are marshaling part-time workers or asking employees to perform multiple roles and re-assigning staff to make up for those who are absent. They are scheduling overtime, deferring low-priority projects and conducting pandemic continuity planning exercises for multiple locations should the virus wave intensify.A Wells Fargo employee said some work is getting transferred to the Philippines, where staff is working overnight shifts to pick up the slack. The San Francisco-based bank employs about 35,000 workers in India to help process car, home and personal loans, make collections, and assist customers who need to open, update or close their bank accounts. The company didn’t respond to a request for comment.An employee at UBS said that with many of the bank’s 8,000 staff in Mumbai, Pune and Hyderabad absent, work is being shipped to centers such as Poland. The Swiss bank’s workers in India handle trade settlement, transaction reporting, investment banking support and wealth management. Many of the tasks require same-day or next-day turnarounds. A UBS representative didn’t respond to a request for comment.With uncertainty surrounding how soon the Indian government will contain the crisis, one executive who asked not to be identified likened the situation to flying blind without any idea how many employees will be affected from one week to the next.Rebalancing Loads“We are looking carefully at how we can rebalance loads,” Standard Chartered Chief Executive Officer Bill Winters said on an earnings call last week, noting that some work has been routed to Kuala Lumpur, Tianjin and Warsaw. “In any case, we think we are very well provided for.”Barclays Plc CEO Jes Staley said some functions were shifted to the U.K. from India. Call volumes have increased and people are distressed, he said, adding that signs of pressure was something to watch for. The bank has 20,000 employees in India.Last year, when a sudden lockdown ordered by Prime Minister Narendra Modi saw these banks scrambling to keep their operations running, the European Banking Authority said the push to outsource support functions “exposed these banks to operational risks.”After asking their employees to work from home en masse last year, most of them have continued to operate at near 100% work-from-home levels. Natwest Group Plc’s workforce in Bangalore, Delhi and the southern city of Chennai -- accounting for a fifth of its global total -- is completely set up to work from home.Management BandwidthSimilarly, thousands of Goldman employees are working from home, doing high-end business tasks such as risk modeling, accounting compliance and app building. A representative for the bank said workflows can be absorbed by the wider team if needed and there’s been no material impact so far.Citigroup Inc. said there’s currently no significant disruption, while Deutsche Bank AG said employees were working seamlessly from home. Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase & Co. detailed relief efforts they are undertaking, but didn’t elaborate on the impact on their operations. Last week, HSBC Holdings Plc Chief Executive Officer Noel Quinn said he’s “watching it closely” and ruled out any material impact at this stage.Besides worrying about disruptions to operations, employee well-being and securing medical help are also taking up a lot of management bandwidth at every large outsourcing unit.At a recent all-hands, virtual corporate strategy team meeting at Accenture Plc, for instance, the talk wasn’t about the usual pay-raises or promotions. Instead, worker after worker demanded flexibility, reduced workloads and no-meeting Fridays, an executive said, asking not to be named discussing internal company matter.Their size has become a hindrance, one executive said, but it’s not clear where else they can go for talent and scale, he added.“We are telling clients they need to relax service levels and reduce expectations for the coming few weeks,” said Mishra, the Gartner analyst. “This not a normal situation.”(Updates infections and deaths in eighth and ninth paragraphs.)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates on Saturday condemned Israel's plans to evict Palestinians from homes on land claimed by Jewish settlers, following a night of violence in Jerusalem. Israeli police fired rubber bullets and stun grenades towards rock-hurling Palestinian youth at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque late on Friday. The clashes at Islam's third holiest site and around East Jerusalem, which injured 205 Palestinians and 17 police officers, came amid mounting anger over the planned evictions.
- Business Insider
A pilot recruit was blindfolded and strapped to a target as fighter jets fired on him in a brutal hazing ritual, says legal complaint
His fellow pilots fired on the terrified French airman for 20 minutes of the incident in March 2019, according to the man's lawyers.
Anti-vaxxer records himself stealing a vial of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to 'investigate' in a laboratory
Thomas Humphrey shared a video of himself stealing a COVID-19 jab. He later claimed to have sent the stolen vial to an MD for investigation.
Trump-appointee Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch cast the deciding vote with his first recorded vote as a justice on the high court.
- Associated Press
Neymar pledged to help Paris Saint-Germain finally win the ever-elusive Champions League trophy after signing a three-year contract extension on Saturday, keeping the Brazil star at the ambitious club until 2025. PSG posted a video of Neymar wearing a jersey with 2025 on the back and saying “Ici c'est Paris” — ‘This is Paris’, a favorite chant of the fans. What they and the club demand is the Champions League, a trophy PSG has never won despite spending a world record 222 million euros ($270 million) on Neymar when he joined from Barcelona four years ago.
- Business Insider
Trump's widely-mocked new blog shows he is now just 'shouting into the void,' say social media experts
Trump has struggled for internet attention since he was kicked off Facebook and Twitter in January in the wake of the Capitol riot on January 6.
'Queer Eye' star Antoni Porowski wants you to know he's aware he's not a chef: 'I feel more comfortable referring to myself as a home cook'
Antoni Porowski opened up to Insider about cooking for his loved ones, some of his favorite recipes, and missing his "Queer Eye" castmates.
NASA's Perseverance rover captured the humming sounds of the tiny Ingenuity helicopter flying above the Martian surface. Why it matters: By recording sound on Mars, scientists will be able to learn more about how the Martian atmosphere works and potentially diagnose problems with Perseverance, should they pop up.Get market news worthy of your time with Axios Markets. Subscribe for free.Driving the news: NASA released a video Friday showing Ingenuity's fourth flight on April 30 when the helicopter flew a 872-foot round-trip test. Perseverance recorded the flight, capturing the Martian wind and hum of the helicopter's blades spinning at 2,537 rpm. (If you're watching the full video, it helps to use headphones.)"We had carried out tests and simulations that told us the microphone would barely pick up the sounds of the helicopter, as the Mars atmosphere damps the sound propagation strongly," David Mimoun, the science lead for Perseverance's SuperCam Mars microphone, said in a statement. "We have been lucky to register the helicopter at such a distance."The big picture: Ingenuity is the first human-made drone to ever fly on another planet, and NASA hopes the tests it's running with the 4-pound helicopter will pave the way for future missions using other drones on Mars and elsewhere. What's next: NASA will continue to test Ingenuity on Mars, allowing it to go on farther flights and one-way trips, potentially to help scout out areas of interest for Perseverance. More from Axios: Sign up to get the latest market trends with Axios Markets. Subscribe for free
Stars from shows like "Top Chef" and "Chopped" told Insider the tastiest and grossest things they've had to eat while judging cooking competitions.
Derek Chauvin was indicted in the arrest of a 14-year-old whom prosecutors say he knelt on for 17 minutes and hit with a flashlight
Court filings say Chauvin hit the boy with a flashlight, grabbed his throat, and knelt on him for 17 minutes during a 2017 arrest.
- USA TODAY
A huge, possibly uncontrolled section of a Chinese rocket is falling back to Earth and is expected to hit sometime Saturday.
- Associated Press
The Biden administration on Friday withdrew a Trump-era proposal to expand the amount and types of biometric data collected by U.S. immigration authorities. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said the proposed rule submitted for public comment in September would be withdrawn as part of the new administration’s goal of reducing “barriers and undue burdens” in the immigration system. In a statement announcing the withdrawal of the proposal, the agency said the Department of Homeland Security would continue to collect biometrics “where appropriate.”
- Miami Herald
Just mere days after a huge brawl at Miami International Airport, another massive fight broke out in the terminal Tuesday night.
- Business Insider
The Chinese rocket speeding back to Earth is so unpredictable it could land almost anywhere. One guess is around Turkmenistan late on May 8.
Estimates will "vary wildly" until the rocket is closer, says 18th Space Control Squadron, a branch of the US military that tracks space debris.
- The Independent
Melinda Gates is ‘haunted’ by Microsoft founder’s association with sex offender, sources say
The rocket carried parts of a new space station and now no one knows where and when it will fall.
- Business Insider
Ephedra sinica, which contains the key ingredient for making crystal meth, grows wild in Afghanistan's mountains.
- LA Times
Angels star Mike Trout developed a special relationship with Albert Pujols, so the news of Pujols' release Thursday left the three-time AL MVP emotional.