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"Back to the office in banking: my suggested solution"

I'm getting really sick of the debate on going back to the office in banking. Personally, I think there's a simple solution and that it looks something like this:

New graduates in the office a lot

New graduates in banking jobs, without work experience, along with their direct managers, should probably be going into the office at least 4-5x a week (assuming it is a local hire) to ensure they are learning how the (insert business/industry) works and are building a personal relationship with their direct manager.

An option would be to start graduate hires in the office 4-5x a week for a month and to slowly reduce that to 2-3x as the new hire gets an understanding of how things work (can be scaled accordingly depending on location, time to get up to speed, etc). Once they can manage their own work and it is mutually agreed upon, they should be able to reduce the amount of in-person time to what they and their manager feel is needed (based on objective, not subjective input... is the work being completed, do they understand the work, etc?).

New graduates need structure when they're not the in the office

When new graduate hires aren't in the office, the manager in turn must develop a playbook of sorts (IN ADVANCE of hiring someone) to provide the new hire an overview of the company, the processes, what good looks like, who the appropriate contacts are, what access is needed, and what is expected on the day to day (on average).

Managers must ensure the new hire is included in ALL relevant meetings and is provided insight into the meeting in advance. On remote days, the manager must make themselves available to the new hire at any time for them to ask questions and get input on their work (via video/message collaboration tools). The need to establish a cadence to ask questions and review work is critical, but meetings should not be required (to avoid Zoom fatigue) if there are no updates/questions/concerns.

New experienced hires don't need to be in the office

The process for experienced hires should be different. Managers at all levels should have a playbook to provide the new hire (internal or external hire) so they can get an understanding of the real work (not the job description from the requisition).

Experienced hires should meet with their manager in person at one of the main office locations (assuming there is an office) for the first week to help get them acclimated/access/build an initial relationship. The company should sponsor this travel for the employee(s) in question. Mostly, though, experienced hires should not be required to come into the office unless they are physically performing a task at the job site (running/participating in in-person client meetings, accessing proprietary systems, managing data centers, etc).

Team off-sites should be held at least 2x a year for the group to come together to focus on two areas, how we can improve team processes (everything from tools used to how often meetings are held) and build personal relationships. This should be sponsored by the company as well (within reason based on budget for T&E).

Most people in banking can and should work from home

Anyone who says that we need people in-office to build and maintain culture is full of it. In most cases, the office culture likely sucks and the average employee doesn't want to be there to waste away their lives when they can do their work in the same capacity from a more desirable location.

Executives in banks should focus on ensuring the company doesn't go under and that employees/investors are happy rather than trying to run it like a monarchy. The age of leading with a whip are over and talent will leave as fast as they join. Building a long term, sustainable workforce is about listening to what employees want and if they can prove they can manage the workload outside the confines of the office, then no one should demand that they do otherwise.

The other case used by executives, "we are paying for the office space", is also a non-starter because real-estate is a sunk cost. They already committed to a lease for X number of years and should have done a better job at planning for a more distributed work environment (technology has been moving us to this model for years now and any executive who didn't see it coming should be removed from their position).

Instead of demanding employees come to the office for X number of days, banking executives should encourage them to come for value-add reasons, not to sit on Zoom calls all day. Provide a really enticing environment for people to come and they will (or at least some will). Consolidate office space and have more centralized HQs and less satellite offices. It's data centers that need redundancy and not useless cubicles.

With this new setup, the firms should be able to weed out the waste in middle management, thus providing more capital to pay employees fairly (beyond bankers and execs), acquire new technologies to support growth, and limit liabilities. Plus, the firm can acquire new talent in areas they'd never be able to reach before the move to a distributed workforce. Its a win-win for everybody involved and will demonstrate that leadership actually values employees and the future of the company.

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Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash



AUTHORJD Insider Comment
  • JD
    J D
    6 May 2022

    Not a lockdown, a move to a more distributed work environment. We've had access to video and chat capabilities for years enabling us to move beyond the corporate environment and with new network technologies that enable applications to be leveraged outside the perimeter in a safe manner means we no longer need to be in the physical office to do our work. And yes, executives should be planning for scenarios like this that change the way we work, whether its a pandemic/natural disaster/etc. Resiliency is key to any business and many were caught off guard when they couldn't operate in a remote mannner.

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