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AsiaAsia CommentTaipan

When site visits mean six months in solitary

How can banks conduct due diligence at a time when so few are willing or able to travel? Staff at one Chinese broker have been presented with a rather unappealing solution.

China’s response to Covid-19 means even travel within the country is practically off-limits. Although some provinces have eased restrictions, many still require travellers to quarantine for one or two weeks. That makes the job of site visits for due diligence difficult for firms, especially boutique shops that do not have hundreds of employees to send across the country.

A Chinese securities house in Hong Kong has come up with a solution, a member of staff told me this week. The firm will pick one of its employees and ask them to travel across China to meet every company they’re currently conducting due diligence on.

That will mean a two week quarantine after arriving from Hong Kong, followed by one or two weeks in every province this banker travels to. The likely candidate for the job, who is trying her best to wriggle out of it, told us that in most provinces she would only have one or two meetings. Two weeks of quarantine for one due diligence meeting? This may be the future of banking.

She was rather misty-eyed when she told me about her employer’s plan, calculating that she could easily spend six months travelling around the country, the vast majority of it under quarantine. I could not help but feel sympathy for her, but I promised we would have a lovely dinner the next time we met.

“I’ll cook a lovely turkey,” I said. “After all, you’ll be back in time for Christmas!”

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