Citigroup Inc. has begun notifying five per cent of its 64,000 U.S. and Canadian employees that they’ll be returning to the office on July 1 or 2, making it one of the first big banks to formally begin reopening after the worst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Some of the people affected are traders who work at Citigroup’s headquarters in Manhattan’s Tribeca neighborhood and others are operations staff in the consumer unit in Tampa and Jacksonville, Florida, according to a person with knowledge of the plan. In recent days, managers have been asking for volunteers while offering assurances that no one will be forced back to the office, the person said, asking not to be identified because the information isn’t public.

“We are taking a phased approach by initially inviting approximately five per cent of our colleagues to return at the beginning of July,” Jennifer Lowney, a spokeswoman for Citigroup, said in an emailed statement. “We will closely monitor how the health and safety measures we are putting in place are working as well as the conditions where our sites are operating before asking more colleagues to return.”

July 1 is the earliest date on a timetable Chief Executive Officer Mike Corbat laid out in an interview late last month, when he said he hoped to have five per cent of workers back at Citigroup headquarters in July or potentially as late as August. Since then, New York has begun the first of a four-phase reopening plan, and the city is slowly returning to life.

Corbat, 60, said in the interview that he was sensitive to concerns employees have about commuting on public transit, and he spoke about the possibility of leasing space in suburban New York. For now, Citigroup is planning to maintain staffing at five per cent through Labor Day, seeing how things go, and then starting to ramp up toward 30%, the person said.

While a number of financial-services CEOs have endorsed working from home more permanently, Corbat said he believes offices are essential to the nature of banking.

London, Hong Kong

The company began notifying employees of the July 1 return date this week. It will be July 2 in Canada owing to a national holiday.

The bank this month started repopulating its London offices at 10 per cent of capacity. In Hong Kong, it recently increased that level to 50 per cent.

The Tribeca building at 388 Greenwich St. was occupied by some 12,000 employees before the coronavirus pandemic. Aside from a small number of essential workers, it has been mostly vacant for the past three months.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. plans to start an incremental return of its U.S. workforce this month, bringing back an initial wave of employees on June 22 to offices in New York, Jersey City, Dallas and Salt Lake City, the company’s leaders told staff in a statement posted online Wednesday.

Citigroup, like most employers in New York, cleared out the tower in mid-March as infections spiked and Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered state residents to stay at home. Coronavirus cases and related deaths in the city have since declined dramatically.

Financial services is one of New York’s most important industries, with some of the highest average salaries and about one in 10 of the city’s workers directly or indirectly tied to the sector.