By Mike Hampson, CEO, Bishopsgate Financial
Mike Hampson explores how the pandemic has reshaped the financial workforce structure, by accelerating the work from home model.
The genie is out of the bottle: Covid-19 has dramatically changed the way we live and work, and it looks like home working is here to stay. A KPMG Financial Services Skills Commission reportconfirms this, saying that one in two financial services workers want to continue to work from home for at least part of the week once the pandemic passes. This shows a profound shift in how financial services employees want to work.
The change in priorities caused by the ongoing pandemic is clearly highlighted in the Bishopsgate Financial Change Perspective 2021 report in which banking executives predict offices will be used for meetings and gatherings in the future, with location-independent working becoming the norm. “We moved 185,000 employees to working from home in a matter of weeks,” said a US Bank Change Manager in the report. This view is supported by a recent McKinsey study which calculates that 20% of the global professional workforce could work remotely three to five days a week as effectively as they could if working from an office.
Now is the time for the finance sector to confront a new reality. Work-from-home or hybrid (part home, part office) arrangements are here to stay, and both require robust and reliable technology solutions to support staffing and business needs.
VoIP networks facilitating the work-from-home momentum
Keeping the dialogue open between teams and clients is non-negotiable when working remotely. A recent YouGov survey  found that 35% of UK businesses plan to improve the workstations of remote working staff in 2021. Internet service providers see a surge in Voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP) usage driven by homeworking.
VoIP networks give staff a work number that can be used from wherever they are based. With this in mind, it’s essential to ensure that the lines used for voice calls are adequately secure and set up for recording, particularly for staff in trading or client communication roles.
Securing the unseen worker
More remote staff means an increased demand for access from a multitude of devices at home. Cybercriminals are already exploiting the relaxed security measures brought about by the sudden need for organisations to shift to remote working, says a Europol report. This leaves IT departments under constant pressure to maintain a secure network and uphold the standards that regulators demand. In July 2020, IBM announced that several global banks, including BNP Paribas, one of Europe’s largest, would be joining several financial institutions adopting IBM Cloud for Financial Services to ensure networks are safeguarded. Reliable local internet access, secure cloud technology and data security need to be addressed as part of this new strategy.
The efficient use of collaboration tools
Recent research by PWC found that 64% of British financial service workers felt fully supported by their organisations to enable them to continue working effectively.
JPMorgan Chase currently has 180,000 of its 200,000 employees working from home. Similarly, Deutsche Bank is considering a hybrid model for its workforce, allowing employees to work remotely for several days each week permanently. At HSBC, UK employees will continue to work in a hybrid model, as part of its cost-cutting programme, and ING bank is allowing its employees based in Spain to work from home for the foreseeable future.
But for workers to continue to be effective in their work, whilst working remotely, connectivity, IT infrastructure and communication tools were found to be the most important resources according to PWC’s recent Covid-19 Remote Working experiment.
This suggests incredible pressure on complex IT infrastructure and bandwidth. A variety of technologies including reliable local internet access, secure communication, cloud, and collaboration tools across a robust IT structure is required for long-term remote working to be effective. It’s also critical to not only communicate synchronously on Skype or Zoom but asynchronously, where you’re not face-to-face on a screen.
Managing the realities of remote work
The creative and social side of work should also be a consideration for banks adapting their workplace strategy. Financial workers can quickly become isolated when working from home. Even those who adapt to it well can still miss the office energy and the rewards of engaging with colleagues.
Over half of workers (55%) in another YouGov survey said they miss the office’s social aspect, and many find it hard to switch off and manage their work-life balance, particularly the under-35 age bracket.
Suppose financial managers don’t have the appropriate mind-sets and behaviours in place to preserve team spirit and operational coherence. There is a risk of organisations tending to work increasingly in silos, with the risk of attention only going to Zoom’s ‘loudest voice.’ They must therefore work harder and smarter to create a sense of team support and participation. Ensuring regular communication across the group, with staff getting the opportunity to flag any concerns, is critical.
Preparing for the future
Banks should be congratulated for rapidly deploying technology and demonstrating unprecedented agility and resilience in 2020. Now is the time to keep that momentum going, so digital transformation can continue at pace.
Even before the pandemic, Gartner had predicted that demand for remote work would increase by 30% by 2030. Undoubtedly, the firms that succeed in adopting the right technologies and flexible working arrangements are likely to fare much better through the crisis and beyond.
-  https://www.gartner.com/en/newsroom/press-releases/2020-02-05-gartner-identifies-six-trends-for-chief-human-resourc