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The Boston Globe

Business

Boston investment firm workers on job at home

It was a day when traders and money managers in Boston’s financial hub spent more time glued to the news than buying stocks.

Financial headlines for news-hungry traders in Boston, New York, and around the world led with the manhunt in Watertown for the Marathon bombing suspects. Shawn Kravetz, a Boston hedge fund manager working from home because his downtown office tower was closed, said he had received a flood of e-mails by early morning.

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“I had countless e-mails from institutional brokers, from research analysts around the country, just checking in,’’ Kravetz said. “The world is paying attention today.”

Boston is home to investment firms managing billions of dollars in mutual funds, pensions, and hedge funds. And thousands of their employees were urged to work from home Friday after authorities’ all-night pursuit of the alleged Marathon attackers halted public transportation and left numerous neighborhoods in lockdown.

Every major firm from Fidelity Investments to Eaton Vance Corp. made contingency plans early in the morning — alternative stock trading sites and fund managers set up with technology to work their portfolios from home. But in a business where many executives are at their desks by 7 a.m., some traders and investment managers had already arrived at work before the governor told residents to stay home.

One intrepid financial worker biked from home in the Fenway neighborhood to his office downtown, only to be turned away. Harris Bradley, 25, tried to make his way through a revolving door at 75-101 Federal St. when a guard shouted that the building was closed.

“Financial markets don’t close just because there’s a crazy guy out there,” Bradley said.

Boston became a strange ghost town for the day, and locally, the minute-to-minute watch for progress on the manhunt was a distraction for most everyone.

At State Street Corp., executives released their quarterly earnings as planned Friday morning and held a long conference call with Wall Street analysts, even as they made sure most of their 12,000 Massachusetts employees stayed home. The financial services company’s chief executive, Jay Hooley, started the otherwise routine call noting, “I just want to acknowledge the horrific tragedy that’s beset our great city this week, and just say that our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone that’s been impacted through this event.”

An analyst on the call, Howard Chen of Credit Suisse, thanked Hooley for holding the meeting despite the crisis: “I know it’s a challenging week up in Boston.”

Logistics and safety were the biggest jobs of the week for many firms. At MFS Investment Management, a large mutual fund firm based in the 111 Huntington tower in the Back Bay, the crisis management team held a conference call between 6 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. Friday, then shipped out automated e-mails and phone messages to alert employees that they should work from home. About 800 people worked from home, while an estimated 80 employees were in the tower, according to spokesman John Reilly.

At fund giant Fidelity, most of the firm’s 6,000 Boston-area employees worked remotely, spokesman Vincent Lophorchio said. Those who did go into the office were told to stay inside for safety.

Newton money manager Jennifer K. Silver, managing partner at Redwood Investments, said many large clients had been in touch Friday to check on the firm’s safety. But she did not expect the trouble in Boston to disrupt the broader investment world.

“It is easy to exaggerate Bostonians’ impact on the market,’’ she said in an e-mail. “While the amount of assets managed out of Boston is huge, I expect that almost all Boston firms have sophisticated disaster recovery plans and can work remotely.”

Indeed, what was all-consuming in Boston was mainly water-cooler fodder on Wall Street. Stocks fell sharply on Monday, the day of the Marathon bombings that killed three people and wounded more than 170, as investors worried about a wider terrorist threat. Security was tightened in New York in response; some investment professionals noticed a larger police presence on their subway commutes. And there was some discussion of whether the disruption in Boston, with its many money managers, would have an impact, said David Lefkowitz, senior equity strategist at UBS.

Stocks were down 2.1 percent for the week, the worst showing in five months, according to Standard & Poor’s Dow Jones Indices. But the decline was more about plunging gold prices and disappointing earnings from IBM Corp. and General Electric Co. than the week’s dramatic events in Boston, market analysts said.

“It’s a really frustrating tragedy,’’ said Alec Young, global equity strategist at Standard & Poor’s Capital IQ. But from a market perspective, he said, “People are of the view Boston will be back online Monday.”

Beth Healy can be reached at bhealy@globe.com. Erin
Ailworth can be reached at eailworth@globe.com.
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