It’s becoming increasingly apparent that working from home is likely to persist for most people finance. While there are moves afoot to get more ‘critical’ staff (traders, settlements, maybe some compliance types) into the office soon, most people think they’re in this for the long haul. Only 13% of respondents to our most recent survey said they’ve been seriously spoken to about going back in, and the return dates seem to be shifting further out: initially people cited June or July, now it’s more like September at the earliest in M&A, or even the end of the year.
While this will be good news for the two thirds of people who think working from home is great, the remaining third will need to endure. Working from home means more sleep, less travel, and less mandatory time spent on personal grooming. But it also means more work. And it’s starting to become apparent why this is.
Snorre Storset, the intriguingly-named head of wealth management at Nordea Bank in Oslo explains the big problem with the new normal. When the lockdown came, plenty of clients didn’t like the idea of their advisor being online instead of there for them in person, Storset told Bloomberg. However, when it became apparent that the payoff for being advised over Zoom was that the adviser who would make him/herself available whenever the client wanted, suddenly everything was ok again. When you’re the advisor, working from home means more availability for clients, Storset says.
It’s a dynamic that bankers in other client-facing roles will recognize. One senior New York banker tells us he’s been putting in 100-hour weeks talking to clients about their financing needs in video conferences during the lockdown. In the current circumstances, clients want advice more than ever, and now that the physical constraints of travelling to provide that advice have been removed, clients are getting far more contact-hours than before. Bankers who previously spent their evenings decompressing in fancy hotels are now sitting in home offices staring at screens and talking to clients into the night. Storset suggests this could persist: “We might have a permanent change in how we view digitization of banking.”
While advisory roles in finance therefore come with this inbuilt downside to working from home, there are advantages for everyone else. Moran Forman, a pregnant 33-year old Goldman Sachs managing director (MD) who runs a team of seven traders in equity index derivatives, told CNBC the new world is great. “It’s been amazing to see how much productivity has potentially even gone up during this period while everybody’s still separated,” said Forman, who now uses Symphony for chatrooms and Zoom for video conferencing.
Forman’s increased productivity seems to derive from the fact that at any given moment during the day, she has 50 chats open…