A major insurance CEO complains about workers shunning the office: ‘We need to get Monday back’

March 9, 2023, 6:09 PM UTC
A picture of Lloyd's of London CEO John Neal
Lloyd's of London CEO John Neal want to "get Monday back".
Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images

People just like working from home on Mondays—everyone knows it. But one insurance company CEO is sounding the alarm over seeing more traffic in the middle of the week, shrinking the number of days employees get face-time during trading, an essential part of the insurance industry. “Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays are busy,” John Neal, chief executive at Lloyd’s of London, told the Financial Times Wednesday. “We need to get Monday back.”

Neal told the FT that he wants to see more of the company’s employees in broking and underwriting on the trading floor for four days a week to make sure in-person trading activities, where deals on specialized insurance policies are made, don’t take a hit amid the uptick in remote work. 

London-based Lloyd’s shifted to digital trading during the pandemic, involving a shift away from traditional face-to-face interactions and toward electronic tools to agree on deal terms with brokers. It stirred conversations in the insurance industry about whether the era of face-to-face trading was reaching its end. 

But Neal thinks that debate is “gone” as remote work becomes baked into the trading routine. Lloyd’s is even considering redesigning its office building to fit hybrid work, the FT reported. 

“We’re building the marketplace of the future, which means having both a fully integrated digital offering and a thriving physical space for our market to convene,” a spokesperson for Lloyd’s told Fortune. 

Lloyd’s had begun its efforts to return to office in early 2021 by creating flexible working arrangements and supporting employees who were trying to transition back to in-person working. For his part, Neal has long been a proponent of in-person trading, especially for young employees in the insurance industry.

“We have the best talent in the world in London in the insurance industry, but we need to be with that talent to help develop them so the next generation can be better than my generation. We have a responsibility to the next generation,” he told The Telegraph in Sep. 2021. 

Remote work vs. financial services companies

Other companies in the financial services industry have emphasized the importance of employees being present in office. In addition to the gains in productivity and culture, top executives have noted the benefits of in-person interactions in the workplace while recognizing the new-found need for flexibility among employees. 

Just like Neal, Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman said in January he wanted workers in office “with other employees at least three or four days” at the World Economic Forum earlier this year. He said that remote work was “not an employee choice” just like compensation or promotion in a job, but also acknowledged that a five-day in-office schedule was “not going to happen again.”

Jamie Dimon, chief of bank JPMorgan Chase, has been vocal about his frustrations with remote work since 2021, when he said he would cancel all his Zoom meetings. He also said earlier this year that remote work isn’t good for “young kids or spontaneity or management.” Dimon highlighted that barring exceptions for roles involving research or coding, and for women who need “help” with managing household duties, remote work was not conducive to work. 

Ex-Mastercard CEO Ajay Banga said last month that employees “burn through a lot of social capital” if it comes down to interacting with “little squares on a screen.” He added that employees should be given flexibility, but remote work should be done right for it to be effective. 

Yet the rallying cry to bring workers back into the office is really (mostly) all talk: Most financial services firms are granting some leeway with remote work. It reflects in the numbers—over two-thirds of banks offer either full or partial flexibility with employees’ hybrid work arrangement, a survey revealed earlier this month. Broadly, in financial services, eight out of 10 companies offer some form of flexibility to their employees. 

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