It is only a short walk from the global headquarters of Goldman Sachs Group to the headquarters of Citigroup, but when it reopens after the pandemic, the two towers in Manhattan may be thousands of miles apart.
Starting this morning, Goldman Sachs asked almost all employees living on the Hudson River to report to their desks. This is one of the most ambitious return to work on Wall Street since the Covid-19 siege of the city more than a year ago. . At the same time, Citigroup will not recall more employees to the almost empty Tribeca Building in downtown Manhattan until July. Even so, the company told most employees that they can adopt the so-called mixed timetable between home and office for a long time.
This kind of disagreement suddenly appeared in Manhattan’s powerful financial industry, generating some optimism in the city’s economy, but widespread anxiety in the workplace. The bosses worry that if the members do not come back, the competitiveness of their team will decrease. Parents worry about losing the flexibility of remote work, but they also worry that young single colleagues and competitors may rush back sooner to communicate face-to-face with executives or customers.
“Women are absolutely nervous about this,” said Rob Dicks, head of talent and organization at Accenture’s capital markets. “I see the bank’s human resources and business leaders recognize, understand, and start planning around the fairness of evaluation.”
It is still difficult to draw broad conclusions on whether such issues will take root in the industry, because it seems that no two Wall Street companies have adopted the same approach. The situation in London is equally chaotic, and many banks are still making plans.
On Friday, Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon released a new single called “Learn to Love Me”, marking the end of his bank’s working-from-home era. “His bank has been increasing face-to-face staffing for several months, and it told employees who have not yet returned that they must figure out how they will return by Monday.
Early this morning, employees rushed into the office of Goldman Sachs in Manhattan under a drizzle, and gave each other high fives. They were greeted by free food in the cafeteria and a series of food trucks playing music throughout the week. The bank has also set up coffee stations throughout the building to promote water dispenser dialogue, and some employees said they are enjoying free refreshments — but don’t know how long they will last.
Above Citigroup, as vaccination activities continue, young children waiting to be vaccinated, and some childcare services such as summer camps have not yet been fully reopened, CEO Jane Fraser is still providing employees with greater flexibility. Her decision on how to handle this process is one of the biggest decisions she has made since she was promoted to the highest position a few months ago. As she begins to leave her mark on the company, this situation may give her an early opportunity to make Citigroup stand out as an employer.
Among other fast-moving companies, JPMorgan Chase & Co. has begun to repopulate its skyscraper on Madison Avenue, while its headquarters on Park Avenue is under construction. The largest bank in the United States has informed all American employees to return early next month, but the tower’s occupancy rate will still be limited to 50%.
Elsewhere in Midtown, senior executives from Bank of America have begun to enter the office. The company does not expect a wider return of employees until the fall.
“We focus on people who get vaccinated,” Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan said in an interview with CNBC today. “But we must ensure that people who have not been vaccinated can come back in a constructive way.”
The bank recently began requiring employees to disclose their identities, and tens of thousands of people in the United States have now received injections. These employees were invited back and received a 30-day notice of return. Across the industry, many people are eager to return. Moynihan said he attended a wedding over the weekend and talked with “a group of young children” who worked for competitors. “They are tired of working in their rooms.”
Deutsche Bank also provides room for maneuver and has informed investment bankers in New York that they plan to start their business in the office no later than after Labor Day in September. Credit Suisse Group has told the fully vaccinated employees in New York that they can also return from Monday, but all employees will not be able to resume full-time work in the office until September.
“In general, people will go back to the office,” said Alex Howard-Keyes, vice president of Kingsley Gate Partners, a recruitment firm focused on the financial services industry. “If you are a big adventurer, it will be stressful to get you back to the office full-time. If you are more customer-oriented, I doubt there will be a certain degree of freedom.”
As companies from tech giants such as Facebook Inc. to automakers such as General Motors Corp. have promised their employees that there will be more remote work in the future, the same disagreements are expected to soon be in other industries in the United States. And the city staged.
In New York City, as of Friday, about 46% of residents have been vaccinated, and the fate of the economy depends on Wall Street. For a long time, it has been estimated that one-tenth of jobs in New York State are directly or indirectly related to the securities industry, and the securities industry also accounts for one-fifth of New York’s private sector wages.
Behind the scenes, banks and their technology partners are creating more fundamental long-term changes to the way the industry operates. When businesses across Manhattan suddenly had to work remotely, they learned the lessons of executives. The results are surprisingly feasible.
Now, even banks eager to replenish Manhattan buildings are making plans to transfer more jobs to other cities-a concept called “distributed trading floors.”
Businesses that once had to operate in New York will increasingly be handled by states with lower living costs, such as Texas, North Carolina, and Florida. Likhit Wagle, general manager of IBM Global Banking and Financial Markets, said that in any case, many technical talents prefer to live in these places.
“A successful trader now needs to be very good at using artificial intelligence and machine learning,” Wagle said. “London, New York or Frankfurt don’t have these types of people. They have a strong view of work-life balance and many of them say they don’t want to move.
Currently, bankers are returning to offices that are very different from the ones they left in March 2020.
There are tall plastic barriers between the desks, and some chairs in the meeting rooms are blocked to encourage social distancing. There are also disinfection stations that are common. Fully vaccinated employees may not need to wear masks, but routine health checks are usually required.
Julie Whelan, global head of tenant research at the real estate services company CBRE, said that good indoor air quality is now one of the most sought-after amenities for companies looking for office space. She joked that many customers have become amateur HVAC experts and they are more concerned with ventilation systems than fitness facilities and public transportation.
“The things that have driven architectural adoption in the past-these are all at the bottom of the list,” Whelan said.
(Updated the details of the reopening of the Goldman Sachs office in the seventh paragraph.)
-With the assistance of Sonali Basak and Steve Dickson.