Attention FAE Customers:
Please be aware that NASBA credits are awarded based on whether the events are webcast or in-person, as well as on the number of CPE credits.
Please check the event registration page to see if NASBA credits are being awarded for the programs you select.

Want to save this page for later?

NextGen Magazine


US and UK Bankers Divided on Remote Working Policies

S.J. Steinhardt
Published Date:
Mar 5, 2024

A “stark divide” has also opened up between some American financial institutions and their European rivals over remote work policies, The Financial Times (FT) reported.

While New York's Goldman Sachs requires its bankers to be in the office five days a week, staff at the United Kingdom’s NatWest are expected to work in the office just twice a month, with 95 per cent adopting a hybrid approach and staff coming into the office on average once or twice a week, the FT reported. British bank Lloyds requires staff to be in only twice a week.

JPMorgan in London is occupying more of a middle ground. It asks only its 2,000-odd managing directors to be in the office full time, allowing more junior staff to spend up to two days at home. But there is still more of a push for staff to come into the office there than at other U.K. banks.

“It’s only my team leader who is required to be in five days a week, but the message is clear that we should all do the same,” said one JPMorgan banker in London. “This is coming straight from the top and everyone knows the implicit rules.”

Research by Scoop, which tracks hybrid working, cited by the FT shows that 93 per cent of British finance companies offer the perk of hybrid work compared with 87 per cent of their U.S. counterparts.

“Banks are having to come face to face with the fact that there are things that don’t work as well when no one is in the office,” said Mark Mortensen, associate professor of organizational behavior at Insead Business School, which has locations in Europe, Asia and North America.. “They made promises to their employees about working from home, who then made significant life changes on the back of them. Now it is very hard to undo those promises.”

Bank of America told Wall Street staff who had not been coming to the office that they could face disciplinary action. Others, such as Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan and HSBC, have sent similar reminders. BNP Paribas and Citigroup have informed their staffs in the United Kingdom that they are monitoring office access data, with some warning that those who do not attend as regularly as expected could have their bonuses docked or even be fired.

Mortenson told the FT that enforcing mandates and tracking data were likely to have a corrosive effect on staff relations.

“Rather than sending threats and monitoring staff, managers need to think about other ways of encouraging workers back to the office,” he said.

While American CEOs such as Goldman Sachs’ David Solomon JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon and Morgan Stanley’s recently departed James Gorman have voiced their objections to remote working, European institutions are more flexible.

Other banks—such as Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, HSBC and Barclays—ask most office staff to be in for a minimum of three days a week, with some roles required to be in more often, especially for regulated roles in investment banking or for branch staff. Deutsche Bank recently required all managing directors to be in the office four days a week.

A study of U.S. financial services workers by Deloitte last year found that two-thirds of those who worked remotely at least part-time said they would leave their role if they were mandated to return to the office full time. Seeking greater flexibility was the main reason staff would consider leaving their company, just above better benefits or pay, the report found.

One unexpected benefit of bankers working from home is that they are less likely to engage in misconduct, according to an academic study based on U.K. lenders published last year, “perhaps because physical proximity offers greater opportunity for collusion and exposure to inside information and misconduct of others,” the researchers theorized. They also suggested there was a selection effect involved, in that staff who were trusted to work from home were less likely to commit trading violations.

“Ultimately this comes down to the culture of a workplace, regardless of how flexible it is,” said Mortensen. “Lack of trust is a cultural problem.”