How Wall Street’s rigid and demanding work culture also gave in to the demand for flexibility

When Tom Naratil came to Wall Street in the 1980s, work-life balance didn’t really exist.. For most bankers of his generation, working long hours without spending time with family was not only necessary to progress, but also to not be left behind. Today president of the Swiss bank UBS in the Americas, he does not see why employees should make such concessions, to the detriment of their personal happiness and the results of the company.

Currently, employees with the flexibility to avoid “horrible office trips” and be able to work from home – more often – are happier and more productiveyes, said Naratil. “They feel better. They feel they are trusted more. And it gives them a better balance between work and personal life. Plus, they produce more for us, which is good for everyone. »

Welcome to a kinder, gentler Wall Street

Large part of the banking industry, during much time a referent for the estadounidenses companies, dismantled the work remoto as a temporal problem of the pandemic, and included was inclined by the workers so that they would assist as the workers converted the center of Manhattan into a ghost town. But with With a slew of Wall Street employees resisting returning to the office, two years into the pandemic, many managers are accepting their employees working from home.

Today, flexibility is a new mantra at many large banks. Many institutions allow their employees to work more days from homeIn addition, they adapt working hours to family needs. To complete the process of change, the spaces of their offices are adapted. No doubts, it’s a clean break with the tradition of this industry.

UBS, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, HSBC and BNY Mellon have announced flexible working plans. Even JPMorgan Chase, the nation’s largest bank – a hybrid company – expects about half of its employees to be in the office five days a week. The general manager of the bank, Jamie Dimon wrote in her annual letter to shareholders that she believes 10% of JPMorgan’s roughly 271,000 employees could eventually work from home. “While the pandemic has changed the way we work in many ways, for the most part it has only accelerated ongoing trends,” Dimon wrote.

But he didn’t seem particularly happy about it, ticking off a list of “serious weaknesses” of virtual working, including slower decision-making and a lack of spontaneous learning and creativity. “While it’s clear that working from home will become more permanent in corporate America, such arrangements must also work for both the company and its customers.“, wrote.

But increasingly, work schedules must also work for workers. “It is talent: how to retain it, how to attract itUBS’s Naratil said.

The bank launched its plan last month to allow 10% of its 20,500 US employees to work remotely all the time and offer hybrid schedules to three-quarters of your employees.

Citigroup has its 65,000 American employees in the office two days a week. and held workshops for managers and employees on remote collaboration. Globally, most roles will move to a minimum of three days a week when it’s safe to do so, the company said. Wells Fargo has started bringing back most of its 249,000 employees mid-March with what he calls a “flexible hybrid model” – for many corporate employees, that means a minimum of three days a week in the officewhile groups that meet the bank’s technology needs may show up less frequently.

BNY Mellon, which has nearly 50,000 employees, allows teams to determine their own mix of in-person and remote working. And he introduced a two-week ‘work from anywhere’ policy for people in certain roles and locations. “The energy in the office has been palpable” as employees enthusiastically hammer out their plans, said BNY Mellon spokesman Garrett Marquis.

Moelis & Cie.., an investment bank storestrongly encouraged its nearly 1,000 employees to go to the office from Monday to Thursday, but with “intra-day flexibility” added to their schedules, said Elizabeth Crain, the company’s chief operating officer. That could mean dropping the kids off at school in the morning or taking the train during the day for safety reasons, he said. The new approach encourages teamwork and allows employees to learn from each other in person, while giving them more control over their schedules.

Crain, who has worked in the financial industry for more than three decades, recently embarked on something that would have been unthinkable before the pandemic: a weekly 9 a.m. session with a personal trainer near his office. He said he hoped breaking the boundaries of the traditional workday sent a message to employees that they could be trusted to get the job done while devoting time to their personal priorities.

HSBC office workers in New York JEENAH MOON – NYTNS

Some are more reserved

Wall Street heavyweights Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley have recognized the need for greater flexibility, but have so far resisted reviewing their operations. Both called on employees to return to the office full-time over the summer, highlighting the merits of working in person to boost company culture, innovation and learning. Morgan Stanley boss James Gorman said at the time, “If you can go to a restaurant in New York, you can come to the office.”

While he stands by that comment, Gorman’s tone has softened somewhat. Showing up three or four days a week is important for professional development and growthbecause it allows professionals to hone skills such as emotional intelligence and reading body language, he said last month.

But he and David Solomon of Goldman Sachs have welcomed efforts to bring workers back to Manhattan offices. Solomon echoed Mayor Eric Adams during a conference at Goldman’s headquarters in March, saying that it was “time to go home”.

Andrea Williams, spokeswoman for Goldman Sachs, said that returning to the office “is essential to our culture of learning” and to our customer-centric activity. “We are better together than apart, especially as an employer of choice for those early in their careers,” he said.

For months, Dimon made a similar argument in JP Morgan, and continued even when he said that about half of your employees would work from home at least part of the time. “Most professionals learn their jobs through a learning model, which is nearly impossible to replicate in the world of Zoom,” he wrote.

JPMorgan has hired more than 80,000 workers during the pandemic, he said, and is struggling to train them properly. “But it’s harder to do with Zoom,” he said. “Over time, this downside could significantly undermine the character and culture you want to promote in your business.”

Some banks are rethinking their real estate needs. With more people working from home, HSBC, which has nearly half of its 8,000 US employees in Manhattan, hopes to reduce its real estate footprintsaid Jennifer Strybel, its director of US operations.

The bank is keeping its building, which overlooks the New York Public Library’s main branch in Bryant Park in midtown Manhattan, at 40% capacity.. The space has been redesigned, replacing rows of open-plan terminals with more tables to encourage collaboration. There is a system of reservation of deskslockers for employees to store their belongings and a “keyboard garage” for those who don’t want to lug around equipment. Charging stations are located throughout the establishment.

dimon said that JPMorgan, which is building a new downtown headquarters that will be the base of operations for up to 14,000 workers, will move to a “free seats”.

Face-to-face seats in an HSBC office in New York.  The bank hopes to reduce the size of its workspace as more employees work from home.
Face-to-face seats in an HSBC office in New York. The bank hopes to reduce the size of its workspace as more employees work from home.JEENAH MOON – NYTNS

Banks outside New York are also adapting: KeyCorp, based in Cleveland, has not set a specific date for returning to work, but hopes that half of its staff will eventually show up four or five days a week. Another 30% will likely arrive in one to three days, with the ability to work from different offices. And 20% will work from home, but with face-to-face training and training events. team building.

The new setup is “uncharted territory” that is needed to keep the workforce engaged, said Key CEO Chris Gorman. Although he comes every day and is a firm believer in face-to-face meetings, Gorman said he avoided a heavy-handed approach that could alienate employees and cause them to seek employment at another company.

Naratil, the chairman of UBS, also believes in face-to-face meetings (he still spends most of his week at the UBS office in Weehawken, New Jersey), but said the great remote work experience of the past two years had debunked the myth that employees were less productive at home. In fact, he says, they are more productive.

The increasingly hybrid workplace has forced leaders to connect with their teams in new wayslike virtual happy hours, Naratil said. The basics have shown they can rise to the occasion, and bosses have a responsibility to bring workers into physical spaces to generate new ideas and strengthen relationships. Managers, he said, must have a good answer when their employees ask the simple question, “Why should I be in the office?” “It’s not ‘because I ask you.’ That’s not the answer,” he says.

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