Goldman, Citi Among Firms Pushing London Staff on Office Return

Goldman employees are being asked to return in line with the government’s announcement on Wednesday.

Goldman, Citi Among Firms Pushing London Staff on Office Return
Employees work at computers. [Photographer: Andrey Rudkov/Bloomberg]

Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Citigroup Inc. and Man Group Plc are among the firms asking London staff to get back to their desks after the U.K. dropped its work-from-home guidance.

Goldman employees are being asked to return in line with the government’s announcement on Wednesday, according to a person familiar with the matter. A spokesperson for Man Group said it expects staff to increase their time in the office. Citigroup has emailed its London staff telling them to come in at least three days a week.

“We are now free to gather in our offices, without restriction, where we are better able to generate the energy and collaborative spirit on which Citi thrives,” EMEA Chief Executive Officer David Livingstone and U.K. head James Bardrick said in an email to staff sent late Wednesday and seen by Bloomberg.

Fidelity International CEO Anne Richards and Standard Chartered Plc Chairman Jose Vinals both said on Bloomberg Television Thursday that their firms are encouraging U.K. staff to return to its offices.

“We will be encouraging more people to come into the office,” Richards said. “I’m looking forward to being physically back to the office from next week.” 

The moves come after the government announced Wednesday that most Covid-19 restrictions are being lifted in England over the coming days, which included asking people to work from home. PricewaterhouseCoopers UK’s Chairman Kevin Ellis is another executive welcoming the change, saying he expects the return to the office to be speedier than last time, when it took his firm two months to get back to 80% capacity at the office.

Faster Return

“We’re expecting a faster bounce back now,” he said in an emailed statement on Thursday. “People know the drill -- and this is great news for small businesses and city centers that rely on office workers.”

Rival KPMG is encouraging client-facing staff in England to come back for at least two days as week, and hopes to extend this to Scotland and Wales soon, a spokesman for the company said. EY said in a statement that at its offices in England all desks will be available to use, the use of face coverings will be optional, and meeting rooms will be able to operate at full capacity. 

A Deloitte spokesperson said that while the firm’s hybrid working model mean people aren’t required to be in the office for a set number of days, its offices in England are “fully open.”

Citi’s email said the U.S. lender continues to offer flexible working, adding that its protective measures remain in place, including its lateral flow Covid testing program and staff should continue to test each Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Rules regarding face coverings also remain in place and staff must continue wearing one when using the lifts. 

Mandatory testing and mask wearing will remain in place at Goldman’s building, the person said.

In December, banks from Citi to Deutsche Bank AG to JPMorgan Chase & Co. told staff to return to home-working where possible after Prime Minister Boris Johnson tightened pandemic rules to curb the spread of the omicron variant. Even before the rules came in, fears about the variant meant some City workers were increasingly staying away.

Such restrictions are being dropped although people will still be encouraged to wear face coverings in “crowded, enclosed” areas,” Johnson said on Wednesday. “We will trust the judgment of the British people.”

Asset Managers

While some firms have been quick to update their stance, others are moving more slowly. 

Abrdn Plc is still mulling a new policy for England employees, and a spokesperson for Vanguard Group said it would not ask its 800 U.K. staff to return to the office until March to allow them to sort out issues like childcare although “voluntary return starts with immediate effect,” the spokesperson added.

Schroders Plc, which put a hybrid working model in place back in 2020, said employees will now “gradually” make their way back to its headquarters. M&G Plc will re-open its offices at the end of January and will continue to offer flexible working arrangements, which depend on the individual circumstances of employees, a spokesperson said.

Broker AJ Bell Plc is rolling out a new hybrid work model that was recently announced in an internal memo. Based on it, attendance will depend on the needs of the team and the individual and staffers will return “in a controlled way” to ensure “a safe working environment in the office and the flexibility to work from home some of the time if they wish to do so”.

And Hargreaves Lansdown Plc said people can return to their desks from Jan. 24 but that the majority will adapt a more permanent flexible model splitting their time between home and the office. 

“We’ll still be working hard to keep people safe with comprehensive cleaning programs, recommended mask use when moving around the offices amongst other things,” a spokesperson said.

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