Wall Street CEOs like Jamie Dimon talk about how going remote ‘doesn’t work,’ but most banks are actually flexible

March 7, 2023, 4:51 PM UTC
Jamie Dimon
JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon.
Marco Bello—Bloomberg/Getty Images

Jamie Dimon and other Wall Street chiefs keep banging the drum on returning to the office, but new data shows that workers have more flexibility than once thought.

More than two out of three banks are offering workers either full flexibility or some sort of hybrid-work arrangement, according to a survey of more than 300 financial services institutions by Scoop, which helps companies coordinate hybrid teams. Half of the 76 banks surveyed were hybrid, meaning they set minimum or specific times for on-site attendance, while 18% were either fully remote or let employees choose when or if they come into the office. More broadly across the financial sector — including fintech, insurance and investment firms — eight out of ten workplaces offered some flexibility.

The findings come amid a renewed push by bank-industry chiefs to get staff in the office more often — typically promoting benefits such as mentoring, easier transitions for new workers and those casual connections at the water cooler that can spark ideas. Dimon, head of JPMorgan Chase & Co., said earlier this year that working from home “doesn’t work,” while Morgan Stanley chief James Gorman has said the decision to work remotely is not up to employees. Layoffs, hiring freezes and slashed bonuses have also convinced some workers to show up on site more often.  

Still, just 59% of New York City finance workers were at their workplace on an average weekday in January, according to a survey from the Partnership for New York City, which promotes the city’s economy. Well-paid workers on Wall Street and elsewhere crave flexibility, and with unemployment at a 53-year low, they’re willing to shop around to find it. Employees without schedule flexibility are more than twice as likely to say they’re “very likely” to look for a new job compared with employees with some freedom, according to a survey of more than 10,000 knowledge workers by the Future Forum, a research consortium backed by Slack. 

Rob Sadow, Scoop’s CEO and co-founder, said banks that insist on full-time office attendance could risk defections. “I think over time they will lose talent to the ones that are not fully onsite,” he said. “If you are outlier in limiting flexibility, you will feel some talent outflow.”

Financial-services companies also offer more workplace flexibility than the average US firm, Scoop found, with four out of five being fully flexible or hybrid, compared with an average of 51% across industries. That’s largely due to the nascent fintech sector, though, where more than three out of four firms are fully flexible, and just 5% insist on full-time office attendance.

“This shows that financial services is more remote compared with other white-collar work,” said Arpit Gupta, an associate finance professor at New York University who viewed the Scoop data. “But there are still enough large financial institutions that still want a substantial physical presence in the city. So that’s hopeful for New York City.”

The rise of remote work has taken a toll on New York, where workers are spending at least $12.4 billion less a year, according to a Bloomberg News analysis using exclusive data from Stanford University economist Nicholas Bloom’s WFH Research group. It’s also hurt the commercial office market, with landlords such as Pimco’s Columbia Property Trust and Brookfield Corp. recently defaulting on mortgages. 

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