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By Sof Socratous Vice President, Northern Europe at Poly

The financial services sector is an industry that has traditionally relied on face-to-face interactions to build meaningful customer relationships. Wealth advisors, M&A bankers and fund managers us their well-honed soft skills to nurture client relationships, build trust, and close deals. But the global pandemic forced financial service professionals to reinvent how they work – and how they interact with customers.

Now that they have had a taste of this new way of working, many financial services professionals are ready for a more permanent change. Their perspective has been altered. Many are now saying “so-long!” to the days of commuting and desire more of the flexibility they’ve experienced since working from home. In fact, 96% of financial industry professionals say they would prefer a mix of office-based and remote working in a post-Covid environment. 

However, with offices now re-opening, some firms are reluctant to change. Our research, shows almost 20% of financial services organisations expect employees back in the office full time. Many are concerned that hybrid working could have an impact on customer relationships, with questions being raised: “How can you build trust without meeting clients in person? How can you look and sound your professional best on video? How can you train new remote employees in the art of managing relationships and closing deals?”

Customer expectations have changed, and the financial sector needs to move with it

What firms must realise is employees are not alone when it comes to reaping the benefits of hybrid working. Clients too are embracing hybrid work schedules and choosing to do more virtual meetings for convenience. Many years ago, the only way to access finances would be to visit a bank in person and have a conversation over the counter with the teller. But in today’s digitalised world, there isn’t a need to physically venture into a bank, when time can be saved by interacting online. Times are changing and clients will reward firms that can expedite decision-making, provide immediate access during crisis moments, and streamline routine and procedural matters via on-demand video calls.  

This new way of working is driving change and it is up to the financial sector to embrace hybrid working or risk falling behind. Our research shows that over half of organisations (56%) believe that if hybrid work plans aren’t addressed, they’ll start to lose staff and will be unable to attract new talent.

Enabling meeting equality will be key

It’s in the best interest of employers to ensure that the work-from-anywhere culture they create is one with equal opportunity and experience at its very core. The goal should be to provide a consistent, professional, and friction-free experience regardless of location so everyone has an equal seat at the table. This means understanding each employee persona, by taking a people-first approach to preferred working styles then equipping workers with the right enterprise-grade headsets, desk phones, and video conferencing devices – no matter where they decide to work from. 

The financial industry is composed of many different types of businesses so enabling hybrid working should not be viewed as a one-size-fits-all situation. For example, sales and contact centre agents have very different needs to client-facing deal teams in M&A. Call centre agents need to be comfortable, with hands-free headsets that prioritise clear audio and enablement of a distraction-free environment while deal teams need embedded meeting room technology to track participants as they talk, in order to clearly see and hear every nuance and give equal weight to all those involved in sensitive discussions. 

Replicating in-person meetings with the right technology

Not only will the adoption of pro-grade audio and video technology create an equal collaboration experience among colleagues, it will also help maintain the same level of professionalism that would be expected if meeting in person. 

At the same time, hybrid working is an essential perk in a competitive market with a talent shortage. By enabling virtual meetings that allow participants to hear and be seen clearly from any location, firms can attract and retain top talent. Concerns around training new remote employees can also be eliminated, as the right meeting technology makes it easier for mentors/managers to find that human connection for guidance and continue nurturing skills when they’re off-site. 

The move to hybrid work may be daunting for financial services firms that are deeply entrenched in traditional business culture and face to face relationships. But the opportunities hybrid working have to offer are numerous and simple to grasp. By making the shift seamlessly, using the right technologies, finance firms can stay competitive and relevant in the age of digital transformation, all while meeting employee expectations and keeping in step with the evolving needs of their clients. 

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