Banks will never return to the office full-time: Credit Suisse CEO

Banks will never have their employees return to the office full time, according to the chief executive of Credit Suisse.

“It’s unrealistic and it is not what employees want,” Credit Suisse CEO Thomas Gottstein told an audience at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Monday.

“We are in a soft way trying to encourage people to come back, but it’s counterproductive if you push too hard.”

Gottstein’s remarks were reported by Bloomberg News.

“We will never go back to the old 80% to 90% of the people in the office,” Gottstein said.

He said that 37% of his company’s workforce is back in the office full time. Gottstein also acknowledged that there isn’t much his company could do to force hesitant employees to return five days a week.

“I think in certain cities like London — where commuting is painful — that is why people prefer to stay from home one or two days, they don’t have to commute,” he said.

“It is funny if you look at the weekly statistics, Mondays and Fridays are pretty low, and then Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday they are in the office. And I think that’s here to stay,” Gottstein said. 

Credit Suisse and other large European lenders have adopted a more liberal attitude when it comes to allowing their employees to work from home.
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Global banking giants that are competing to retain talent are under pressure to show greater flexibility, particularly as the job market has tightened in recent months.

While European firms appear to have taken a more accommodating posture allowing for more remote work, their US counterparts have sought to bring their employees back to the office.

Credit Suisse announced last year that it was adopting a “maximum flexibility” policy whereby its 13,000 Switzerland-based employees will be able to determine on their own how much time they choose to spend outside the office and which days to be in.

Another Swiss banking giant, UBS, is allowing some of its US-based workforce to work remotely full time. BNP Paribas, the French lending giant, is allowing European-based employees to work remotely half the week.

Banks in the US and Europe are under pressure to show greater flexibility due to a tight job market.
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Americans banks have gotten pushback from their employees over more stringent return-to-office policies.

Earlier this year, bankers at Goldman Sachs threatened to quit over management’s demands that they show up to work at the office five days a week.

When Goldman instituted a mandate for staffers to return to the office, junior bankers reportedly started interviewing for jobs elsewhere that offer more flexibility.

David Solomon, the bank’s hard-charging CEO, said earlier this month that more than half of Goldman employees — between 50% and 60% — have returned to work on site full time.

JPMorgan Chase initially required its work force to return to the office full time, but management showed more flexibility and allowed staffers to work from home three days a week.

Other Wall Street firms are trying to entice workers by offering a better work-life balance.

Citigroup recently announced that it would open offices in the Spanish coastal town of Malaga, where junior staffers could enjoy warm weather and a relatively low cost of living.