(Bloomberg) – New York City is reopening, vaccinations are accelerating, and spring brings optimism. For Wall Street banks, this means a return to the office may finally be in sight.
JPMorgan Chase & Co. will have hundreds of interns working in the lender’s offices in New York and London over the coming months. Citigroup Inc. is offering quick Covid tests to its employees as they outline their plans to get people safely back to their buildings. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. hopes to have more employees by the summer.
A year after Wall Street sent workers home in droves to halt the spread of the coronavirus, the prospects for a widespread return are clearing – and not too soon for some companies in the industry. From the exhaustion of zooming in to the exhaustion of workplaces clashing with home life, many bankers say the stresses of long-term remote working are increasing for bosses and subordinates alike.
There are exceptions and signs of increased flexibility as companies like Apollo Global Management Inc. consider hybrid models. With other industries contemplating a dramatic work transformation in a post-Covid world, the stance of New York financial giants is clear: employees should be in offices. It’s all about how quickly and safely their guides can get them there.
“It’s very much our goal to be back in the office together,” said Ralph Schlosstein, co-chairman of Evercore Inc., in an interview with Bloomberg Television on Tuesday. “We encourage everyone to get vaccinated as soon as they are eligible.”
A return for banks would come after many seizures and starts and is dependent on a virus that has proven difficult to control. In fact, HSBC Holdings Plc’s main Hong Kong office was closed until further notice this week after three people who worked in the building tested positive for Covid-19.
Wall Street tried to persuade bankers and traders last fall when cases fell and shops and restaurants reopened, only to see those plans falter when Covid-19 roared back in the winter. According to security firm Kastle Systems, only 14.5% of office workers in the New York area were back on March 3.
But this time it’s probably different. Vaccines have arrived, and President Joe Biden has asked states to ensure that all adults are eligible for shooting by May 1. New York will finally reopen its public high schools for personal learning. Last week, the number of riders on the subway reached its highest level since the pandemic began.
Workers are increasingly eager to get out of the house and get back on the streets to see colleagues and clients, said Brian Chin, head of commercial and investment banking for Credit Suisse Group AG.
“There are only so many Zoom calls you can make,” said Chin, who hopes to have the staff back in the office soon. “I’m worried about our people.”
Banks continue to be cautious about setting firm dates for office reopening, and the process could stretch for many months. However, the prospect of companies welcoming a second class of virtual interns and analysts adds an added urgency. Newbies often learned by pulling up a chair behind a seasoned dealer or attending customer meetings. This model is more difficult to replicate in the video conferencing world.
Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan, advocated a wider return, saying his company had seen “alienation” among younger workers and that working longer from home could cause economic and social harm in the long term.
“It’s important to be together for collaboration and communication,” said John Buchanan, chief operating officer and head of strategy for Mizuho Americas. “And one of the big things is educating our younger people. This is an apprentice shop. People learn from their mentors. “
Charlie Scharf, CEO of Wells Fargo & Co., said Wednesday that around 200,000 employees at the San Francisco-based bank continue to work remotely and that life is unlikely to return to normal until late summer when more people are vaccinated.
“We’re going to bring people back when it’s safe and we’re going to notify people,” Scharf said in an interview with Bloomberg Television, adding that he was “not interested in getting people back into the offices.”
“We’re going to play it by ear, and it’s going to be city by city, state by state, and we’re going to make those decisions when we think it’s safe.”
In some ways, banks may have no choice but to bring some workers back. In the past, distributors and certain support staff had to be in the office to make it easier for companies to monitor their activities for regulatory compliance.
As the U.S. pandemic swelled last year, Wall Street received special regulation from regulators, including the financial industry regulator, to allow its traders to work from home. The agency is now considering whether to allow long-term remote work.
The financial industry’s determination to bring workers back contrasts with major Silicon Valley employers, many of whom are now planning to leave more of their workers at home permanently, said Rob Dicks, Accenture Plc’s talent and organization director for capital markets.
For example, Facebook Inc. has said that up to 50% of its employees may be remote, while Twitter Inc. employees can work from home forever if they want. Salesforce.com Inc., San Francisco’s largest private employer, takes on widespread flexible work after the end of the pandemic.
“Here you see the division between the banks that say, ‘Yeah, but we want to see you here,’ and the tech companies that say, ‘Hey, you’re probably right, you’ve proven, between teams and between individuals, you You can work from home, ”Dicks said, adding that financial firms may need to adapt to hire in-demand engineers and other technicians.
Elsewhere, Ford Motor Co. announced Wednesday that employees can continue to work from home so that more than 30,000 employees can only use the office when the pandemic ends, even after the pandemic has ended.
Some financial companies have already announced that they are planning more flexibility. Apollo will test whether employees have the option to work remotely two days a week for the rest of the year. Broker BTIG LLC has announced that up to half of its employees will continue to add remote working to their regular schedules even after the offices reopen.
“I think most people will try hybrid schedules, especially initially, to see if that approach is more worthwhile,” said Jennifer Mermel, BTIG’s chief operating officer. “For us, the biggest change in thinking during the pandemic is the idea that not everyone has to be in the office to be connected.”
Even some of the staunchest supporters of office life seemed to be softening their stance. Jamie Dimon, chief executive officer of JPMorgan, said this month that some of its employees could split their time between working remotely and entering the office.
“There will be a large part of it that will work permanently in the office – think of our branches, cash management and probably most of the trading floor,” he said in an interview with Bloomberg Television.
Mizuho’s Buchanan said there is only one thing he knows for sure.
“I am 100% confident that we are neither 100% home work nor 100% in the office,” he said. “That’s a wide range.”
– With the support of Hannah Levitt.
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