Even as Greece desperately tries to avoid defaulting on its debt, U.S. companies are preparing for what was once unthinkable: that Greece will soon be forced to leave the eurozone.
Bank of America Merrill Lynch has looked into filling trucks with cash and sending them over the Greek border so clients can continue to pay local employees and suppliers in the event that money is unavailable. Ford has configured its computer systems so they will be able to immediately handle a new Greek currency.
No one knows just how broad the shock waves from a Greek exit would be, but big U.S. banks and consulting firms have been advising their clients on how to prepare for a splintering of the eurozone. That is a striking contrast to the assurances from European politicians that the crisis is manageable and that the currency union can be held together. On Thursday, the European Central Bank will consider measures that would ease pressure on Europe’s cash-starved countries.
JPMorgan Chase, though, is taking no chances. It has already created new accounts for a handful of U.S. giants that are reserved for a new drachma in Greece or whatever currency might succeed the euro in other countries.
Greece’s abandonment of the euro would most likely create turmoil in global markets, which have experienced periodic sell-offs whenever Europe’s debt problems have flared up over the last 2 1/ 2years. It would also increase the pressure on Italy and Spain, much larger economic powers that are struggling with debt problems of their own.
“It’s safe to say most companies are preparing,” said Paul Dennis, a program manager with Corporate Executive Board, an advisory firm.
In a survey this summer, the firm found that 80 percent of clients polled expected Greece to leave the eurozone, and a fifth of those expected more countries to follow.
U.S. companies have actually been more aggressive about seeking out advice than their European counterparts, according to John Gibbons, head of treasury services in Europe for JPMorgan Chase.
Gibbons said a handful of the largest U.S. companies had requested the special accounts configured for a currency that did not yet exist.
“We’re planning against the extreme,” he said. “You don’t lose anything by doing it.”