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Edward Jones suspends ‘residential face-to-face contacts’ with clients amid coronavirus outbreak

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In a sign of how seriously wealth management firms are taking the health threat of coronavirus, Edward Jones is telling its 18,000 advisors to “suspend making residential face-to-face contacts,” a company spokesman says.

It’s a dramatic move for the firm which serves 7 million clients. Edward Jones operates offices staffed by a single advisor and an assistant, and typically located on Main Streets in towns throughout all 50 U.S. states.

“We are also temporarily restricting public access to our branch offices, and encouraging clients and our financial advisors to communicate using virtual means, including telephone call, WebEx, secure text and online access,” says spokesman Alex Reed. “We are committed to serving and supporting our clients — without exception.”

The coronavirus pandemic has sickened more than 182,000 people worldwide, according to a New York Times database. Approximately 4,400 people have tested positive for the virus in the U.S. as of March 17. That’s up from 60 on March 3.

The outbreak has prompted authorities in several states and cities to shut bars, restaurants, gyms, casinos and other businesses in an effort to stem the rising number of cases. The virus is highly contagious and lethal for certain groups of people, such as those with compromised immune systems.

Wealth management firms have been racing to keep pace with the developing situation. For example, UBS placed limits on advisor travel earlier this month. Ameriprise said yesterday that its roughly 2,100 employee advisors could work remotely. It gave similar guidance to its approximately 7,700 independent advisors who run their own practices.

More firms are taking stringent measures to protect employees and clients.
March 13

Edward Jones had previously suspended all business travel and switched to virtual training for employees. It’s now taking additional measures to protect back office and other staff.

“To reduce risks to our associates and to do our part to combat the rapid spread of coronavirus, we are moving our associates to primarily work from home at our headquarters locations in St. Louis, Tempe, [Arizona] and Mississauga, Canada,” the spokesman said. The firm will permit a “limited number of associates” to enter offices to complete some job tasks, it said in a statement, adding that cleaning protocols have been improved and employees must adhere to social distancing guidelines.

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