Insight & Analysis

Flexible working and the power of personal choice

Published: Oct 2020

With half of UK financial services workers planning to work from home after the pandemic, what are the pros and cons of home working arrangements – and how much flexibility can treasurers expect?

Flexible working ipad

Among the changes brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the most significant is the abrupt shift to home working arrangements. As staff and employers become increasingly accustomed to this type of arrangement, many organisations have begun to regard remote working as a longer-term option – particularly in the UK, where Morgan Stanley research found that white-collar workers were slower to return to office working in the summer than their European counterparts.

Even before the second wave of the virus began, a number of firms including NatWest and Standard Life Aberdeen had announced that most staff would not return to the office until 2021. In August, meanwhile, accounting firm PwC predicted that most employees would adopt a hybrid of home and office working going forward.

More recently, a new report by KPMG and the Financial Services Skills Commission has found that half of the UK’s financial services workforce want to continue working from home at least part of the week after the pandemic is over. The report, which polled the views of 632 people working in the financial services sector, also found that a quarter of finance workers want to work from home full time.

Flexible treasury?

For corporate treasurers, it’s likely that there will be greater opportunities for remote working arrangements going forward. Carried out between March and July 2020, Treasury Today’s 2020 Women in Treasury Global Study found that 89% of respondents’ organisations now offer flexible working arrangements.

And while lockdown conditions may have enforced home working in recent months, treasury professionals, like others, are likely to find that employers offer greater flexibility in the future. Speaking to Treasury Today in September, Mike Richards, Chief Executive of The Treasury Recruitment Company, said that one UK-based company was recruiting for a treasury role with the expectation that the successful candidate would only need to be in the office two or three days a month.

Ability to choose

Nevertheless, alongside the benefits of remote working, this type of arrangement can also be challenging – and many treasury and banking professionals would still actively prefer to be able to work in the office environment.

Mark Smith, Head of Treasury and Trade Solutions EMEA at Citi, says he has chosen to return to the office. “Being back here – albeit in a socially distanced way – enables us to have that connectivity with each other that isn’t quite the same over Zoom,” he comments. “From my perspective, I feel as though working in the office will be a key part of our continued operations within Citi – although it may be some time before we all return to that sense of normality.”

He adds that client engagement is “incredibly important”, and that while recent circumstances have curtailed in-person meetings significantly, “there’s nothing quite like having that personal connectivity with your clients as you discuss what we can do for them and how we can work in partnership together. As I reach out to clients, there’s still that broader desire to get a lot of that connectivity and partnership back in place.”

Amongst treasurers, there is also likely to be considerable variation in terms of preferred working patterns. Matthew Davies, Head of Global Transaction Services, EMEA and Global co-Head of Corporate Sales, GTS at Bank of America, says that while it varies significantly from company to company, most of the clients he has spoken to envision that they will continue to have an office-based treasury, but with a lot more flexibility. “From what we are hearing, for many it’s probably going to be a mix of working from home and working in the office,” he adds. “Most clients are talking about a mix, like three days in the office and two days from home, and that seems to be the preferred balance from the companies I’ve spoken with.”

As Mel Newton, Head of Financial Services People Consulting at KPMG UK, pointed out in a press release, “what the future workforce wants is personal choice.”

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