Wall St Acknowledges That WFH Is Now Essential To Attract Talent

In May last year the CEO of JPMorgan Chase & Co, Jamie Dimon, said that working from home (WFH) doesn’t work in banking. He said that his experience of working from home during the pandemic proved to him that it’s impossible “to hustle” and he was convinced that young people prefer to work in offices.

Other senior bankers agreed. The CEO of Goldman Sachs, David Solomon, has said that “remote work is not ideal for us, and it’s not a new normal,” he famously told a finance industry conference in February 2021. “It’s an aberration that we’re going to correct as quickly as possible.”

Most large investment banks have a collegiate working style that is similar to how an apprentice learns – learning on the job. Therefore it always seemed that there was some merit in how these senior bankers reacted to working from home. After all, if you learn from experienced bank traders by being there on the floor with them then how can you continue learning from home?

But there is another variable at play. What if the existing approach is flawed? Perhaps young bankers don’t need to be immersed 100% into a trading environment and some elements of their job can just as easily be managed from home.

This is the argument that many of those young bankers are now making because they want greater flexibility – just like office-based workers in many other industries.

JPMorgan has been forced to announce a reversal of the unpopular ‘back to the office’ policy. “It’s clear that working from home will become more permanent in American business,” Jamie Dimon acknowledged in his annual shareholder letter in April 2022. Mr Dimon then described how that trend will affect the real estate of his firm, New York City’s largest commercial tenant. JP Morgan expects to have about half of its employees work in-person full-time. That includes retail bank branch workers, security and facility workers, and others whose jobs cannot be done remotely.

This is an enormous reversal from 2021, when it was apparently impossible for banks to operate with some employees working from home. Why have companies such as JPMorgan been forced to change their approach?

Talent. People now want more genuine flexibility in their working location and working hours. If an employer insists on being in the office Monday to Friday for a fixed number of hours then they are no longer seen as a desirable place to work. Any company – including big banks – that wants to attract the best talent needs to offer more flexibility.

The New York Times recently reported on the change of plans by JPMorgan, but also noted that banks including UBS, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, HSBC, and BNY Mellon have all recently introduced flexible working plans.

Any company that now wants to be seen as a desirable place to work has to offer employees the ability to work from home – at least some of the time. If the big Wall St banks have now acknowledged that WFH is essential for their business then how is this affecting your own ability to attract the best and brightest to your business?

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