(Bloomberg)—At the first in-person Davos gathering in over two years, one topic among banking bosses was the people not there — workers who are choosing to work from home in the wake of the Covid pandemic.
Chief executives who gathered at the Swiss resort showed there is still a divergence of approach about the future of work, even as many countries have rolled out comprehensive vaccine programs and guided people to return to their normal lives.
Richard Gnodde, chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs International, one of the most ardent return to office banks, told the Davos gathering that 70% of Goldman’s workforce are now typically in the office on any given day and that the number is “drifting up.” That compares to about 80% or 85% before the pandemic.
Gnodde stressed that flexibility had always been part of Goldman’s approach and will be “absolutely part of the future, but we’re a work-in-the-office place and I think that’s where people will spend a lot of their time.”
For Credit Suisse Group AG CEO Thomas Gottstein, there’s no going back to how things were. In contrast to what’s happening at Goldman, Gottstein said: “We will never go back to the old 80% to 90% of the people in the office”.
About 60% of Credit Suisse’s employees should be working from the office according to its updated policies, Gottstein said in an interview at the World Economic forum in Davos on Monday. The actual number coming in is 37%, and it is “unrealistic” to expect staff to return to their workplaces full-time, Gottstein said.
Over at UBS Group AG, CEO Ralph Hamers said two thirds of the workforce are likely always to work in a hybrid way. But teams will need to coordinate times they can be in together, Hamers said. “If you want to coach, if you want to transfer experience, if you want to plan, then there is a merit to being together. But that doesn’t mean you have to be in the office every day,” Hamers said.
The division between US and European banks that appeared as firms started to move on from blanket remote working has continued, comments made at Davos showed.
Yet in another way, Goldman has departed from traditional ways, announcing earlier this month unlimited vacation for senior staff. Gnodde said the eye-catching policy was designed to ensure those people actually take some vacation. “We really want to make sure that people take vacation and take consecutive days,” Gnodde said.
The changes to working practices from time in the office to more encouraging attitudes to holiday are part of an effort by lenders to attract and retain talent. Hamers said in at interview at Davos that UBS is trying to offer flexible working conditions both for people at the lender today and also the generations to come.
In the meantime, the chief executives themselves have been enjoying this May gathering of Davos, in contrast to its normal January fixture amid the Swiss snow, according to Richard Edelman, chief executive officer of public-relations firm Edelman.
“Davos has been actually great because its smaller, CEOs are really looking to talk,” Edelman said in a Bloomberg Television interview. Plus, he said, it is “less cold.”
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