Last orders for the weekly commute? Don’t bank on it 

Posted on August 11, 2020

WFH
Vikas Srivastava

Vikas Srivastava, Chief Revenue Officer at Integral

As pubs have opened their doors in England, so too have the world’s global banking giants.  

After a prolonged period of working from home, many of the top banks including JP Morgan and Citibank have announced plans to urgently bring their staff across the world back into the office.  

New upgrades to the service industry — from servers wearing masks to proper social distancing requirements for tables — have prepared consumers for their return to pubs and restaurants.  

Likewise, new safety measures and necessary technology upgrades have led the decision-making process around moving back to an in-office working environment. The question is: Why the rush?  

It’s fair to say that there will be both business and emotional reasons why some are eager to leave their homes and interact with their colleagues again in an office environment. While we have all become used to multiple video conferences every day and our working from home routines, there is no replacement for building relationships with colleagues and customers face-to-face.  

Likewise, the workforce may have gained back productivity in this working from home period but fostering innovation in a virtual environment is harder to achieve. And of course, creating a clear distinction between home life and work life is something people – particularly those with young families – look forward to re-establishing.  

For the most part, though, these aren’t the only reasons for the push by banks to get people back to the office. For the banking industry, remote working has proved possible, but not without its challenges.  

As some begin to return to the office, and firms roll out hybrid working plans for the rest of 2020, a new set of questions around supporting employees both in and out of the office have arisen. Currency and bond desks are some of those rushing back to the office in order to help bring the market back to normal functionality.  

As the London offices of one of the largest global banks has demonstrated, which began rolling out 10-15% in-office capacity at the beginning of June, the majority of those returning to work have been traders.  

The pandemic has changed the way every industry thinks of remote working, and many have adapted seamlessly, with some in the tech industry such as Twitter suggesting a work from home forever policy and others including Google, Microsoft and PayPal permanently extending their work from home options.  

For some FX and bond market traders who are only able to perform their role effectively with on-premise systems contained within bricks and mortar, shows the challenges many financial institutions face within their existing technology stack.  

With the changing nature of the pandemic, we cannot predict where and how staff will need to work going forward. However, it seems logical that you cannot leave your business reliant on an on-premise setup.  

This is especially true if we need to return to a WFH environment in the future, and also because a growing number of companies wish to implement a routine whereby the working week is split between the office and the home.  

The answer then lies in a hybrid working environment for all, including traders at investment banks. In order to do this, banks will need to look again to cloud computing as the technology that enables you to work effectively from anywhere.  

Firms that have properly implemented cloud-based software have been the winners during remote working the last few months. And as workers begin to trickle back to the office, the use of flexible infrastructure will continue to be a measurement of success in a firm’s architecture. 

One of the major benefits of cloud technology is that one can acquire top tier technology and reduce costs. The increase in FX volatility in March provided the circumstances for those banks with their market making abilities off-premise to make enough profit for their desks to last the rest of the year.  

Should this situation happen again other firms will not want to miss out. Whether or not the weather gods smile on us, the summer is finally here, and many are tired of staying at home after so many months.  

While that may be true, we still have to stay safe. Having the choice to decide the optimal ratio between going to the office and working at home – based on an individual’s and a company’s situation and risk tolerance – is a far better way to choose when the time is right to go back to an office environment. 

Ideally, infrastructure and technology should not be dictating this requirement. Investing in technology – such as cloud – helps your firm be prepared for whatever challenge is yet to come, and to enable your operations to carry on productively wherever your staff may be.

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