In a letter to the governors of Maryland and New York, chair and vice chair of the National Governors Association, respectively, Investment Company Institute (ICI) President and CEO Paul Schott Stevens asked that the mutual fund industry and providers of critical services to funds be taken into account as they impose “stay-at-home” directives.
“Many states are home to headquarters or critical operations for numerous mutual fund sponsors where Americans have entrusted their savings to meet a wide range of financial goals—to buy a home, to pay for schooling for themselves or their children, to retire or to enhance their financial security generally. Those mutual fund companies must remain in operation to ensure access to invested monies for shareholders across the country,” Stevens wrote.
He cites a memorandum issued last week from the head of the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency “as useful guidance for any U.S. jurisdiction considering a shelter-in-place order,” pointing out that it names financial services as an industry that provides critical infrastructure and identifies categories of workers who should be deemed essential. He also cites “historical precedent in presidential directives identifying financial services as a component of the nation’s critical infrastructure”—specifically naming directives issued by Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
Stevens says that while most mutual fund firms have ordered much of their staff to work from home, not all functions can be done from home. “Critical information technology and data security activities, such as maintaining optimal computer systems’ performance to support shareholder needs and protect shareholders’ information from cyber criminals, require personnel physically present at a facility. Staff also need to pick up and process mail to ensure that shareholder transactions, like purchases and redemptions, are completed quickly and efficiently on behalf of retail investors. Call centers where fund shareholders contact the fund complex with questions and concerns may need some staff in the facilities to maintain full support of the fund shareholders,” he wrote.
Stevens adds that many of the services described are outsourced to service providers and asks that those providers also be considered when determining essential services exemptions for shelter in place orders.
“As you and your colleagues consider shelter-in-place orders and other measures, it is imperative that mutual funds be granted the same exemption that states would provide to the banking community to ensure mutual fund shareholders can manage and access their savings during such anxious and trying times,” Stevens concludes.