By Lina Saigol
“This is not ideal for us and it’s not a new normal.”
That was Goldman Sachs /zigman2/quotes/209237603/composite GS +3.20% Chief Executive David Solomon weighing in on the millions who are working from home right now, speaking at a Credit Suisse conference.
“It’s an aberration that we are going to correct as quickly as possible,” Solomon told the conference on Feb. 24. He said the investment bank had operated throughout most of 2020 with just 10% of its 34,000 employees in the office because of COVID-19.
His comments echo other Wall Street executives who in recent months have cited lost collaboration and an inability to train junior staff members, as staff have remained home for almost a year.
Barclays /zigman2/quotes/208409333/delayed UK:BARC +3.29% Chief Executive Jes Staley said on Feb 18. — in a call with journalists accompanying the bank’s annual results — that working from home was “getting old” and that the bank would look to repopulate its offices this year.
Both Solomon and Staley cited collaboration as a key reason to get deal makers back to offices, which play a role in helping shape corporate culture, especially for new recruits who learn the ropes by working closely with senior colleagues.
“I am very focused on the fact that I don’t want another class of young people arriving at Goldman Sachs in the summer remotely,” Solomon said.
JPMorgan /zigman2/quotes/205971034/composite JPM +6.19% Chief Executive Jamie Dimon made similar comments at a conference in October, saying that the negatives of working from home were felt “more and more” the longer staff are away from the office. Productivity was reduced and “spontaneous creativity” gained from being in the office together was lost, he added.
“There are a lot of people who have been hired into our companies who have never been into our company,” Dimon noted. “How do you build a culture and character? How are you going to learn properly?”
Other banks are using the COVID-19 crisis as an opportunity to cut costs and permanently overhaul the way they work. Fifth Third Bancorp /zigman2/quotes/207561596/composite FITB +3.28% said last year that it will cut about 20% of its corporate office space as part of an aggressive plan to reduce expenses by $200 million in the first quarter of 2021.
Some European banks have followed suit. HSBC /zigman2/quotes/203901799/delayed UK:HSBA +2.09% is cutting its office space by 40% , its chief executive Noel Quinn told journalists on Feb. 23, saying that the way the bank works would look “very different” after the crisis. Deutsche Bank /zigman2/quotes/203042512/composite DB +7.47% , Lloyds Banking Group /zigman2/quotes/200709414/composite LYG +3.26% , and Standard Chartered /zigman2/quotes/200125072/delayed UK:STAN +2.63% are also considering reducing their real estate footprints.
The U.K. government said earlier this week that home working should continue wherever possible, as it set out a four-step plan to ease England out of its third lockdown.