Sunday Feb 05, 2023

Wall Street Banks Are Getting Flexible on Working From Home – The New York Times


When Tom Naratil arrived on Wall Street in the 1980s, work-life balance didn’t really exist. For most bankers of his generation, working long hours while missing out on family time wasn’t just necessary to get ahead, it was necessary to not be left behind.

But Mr. Naratil, now president of the Swiss bank UBS in the Americas, doesn’t see why the employees of today should have to make the same trade-offs — at the cost of their personal happiness and the company’s bottom line.

Employees with the flexibility to skip “horrible commutes” and work from home more often are simply happier and more productive, Mr. Naratil said. “They feel better, they feel like we trust them more, they’ve got a better work-life balance, and they’re producing more for us — that’s a win-win for everybody.”

Welcome to a kinder, gentler Wall Street.

Much of the banking industry, long a bellwether for corporate America, dismissed remote working as a pandemic blip, even leaning on workers to keep coming in when closings turned Midtown Manhattan into a ghost town. But with many Wall Street workers resisting a return to the office two years later and the competition for banking talent heating up, many managers are coming around on work-from-home — or at least acknowledging it’s not a fight they can win.

Flexibility is a new mantra at many major banks, which are shifting to more days at home, hours that adjust to suit family needs and reworked office spaces, in a break with industry tradition that has long emphasized face-to-face relationships built over grueling hours and punishing workloads.

UBS, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, HSBC and BNY Mellon have all announced flexible work plans. Even JPMorgan Chase, the nation’s biggest bank and a hybrid-work holdout, expects that only about half its employees will ultimately be in the office five days a week. The bank’s chief executive, Jamie Dimon, wrote in his annual shareholder letter on Monday that he believed 10 percent of JPMorgan’s roughly 271,000 employees could eventually work from home.

“Although the pandemic changed the way we work in many ways, for the most part it only accelerated ongoing trends,” Mr. Dimon wrote.

But he didn’t sound particularly happy about it, ticking off a list of “serious weaknesses” of virtual work, including slowed decision-making and a lack of “spontaneous learning and creativity.”

“While it’s clear that working from home will become more permanent in American business, such arrangements also need to work for both the company and its clients,” he wrote.

But increasingly, work schedules also have to work for workers.

“It’s all about the talent — how do you retain it, how do you attract it,” said Mr. Naratil of UBS. The bank rolled out its plan last month to allow 10 percent of its 20,500 U.S. employees to work remotely all the time and offer hybrid schedules for three-quarters of its workers.

“Talent will move, and it’s not only about a paycheck,” he said.

Citigroup has …….


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