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How Banks can Meet Expectations in a Hybrid World

When the government lifted its work-from-home guidance, large banks and insurers were among the first to announce plans to return to the office. HSBC and Standard Chartered both asked staff to come back within days of the guidance being revoked, with Citigroup following closely behind.

While some debated whether the move would have a negative impact on staff absences, which at the time were already high, others focused on the much-needed boost city centres would receive after years of low footfall.

What many agreed on, however, was that some level of flexible working arrangements would remain in place. Noel Quinn, CEO of HSBC admitted that being in the office five days a week was ‘unnecessary’ and claimed hybrid working models to be ‘the new reality of life’.

Now, months later, banks still have differing opinions and strategies as to what the future of work – and the office – looks like when it comes to meeting expectations.


Reimagining existing real estate

Labelling the return to the workplace a ‘work in progress’, Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon said he wants people to ‘generally come together’, while executives from financial services company, Jefferies called on senior dealmakers to get back to the office to ‘mentor abandoned juniors’.

Traditionally seen as a corporate sector with little flexibility, FS firms have historically invested in large headquarters and branches to host their staff. As a result, many were left with a huge amount of empty real estate when the pandemic hit.

With employees having grown accustomed to the many perks of working from home – including greater flexibility and reduced travel costs – banks must find new ways to entice the returning workforce back to the office. As such, they must reimagine their real estate to meet today’s modern requirements, as well as be aware that existing offices are unlikely to accommodate the same numbers as they did pre-pandemic.

As part of an effort to adapt to the long-term impact of Covid-19, several of the UK’s biggest banks began converting underused parts of their high street branches into office space, as an alternative to bringing staff back to larger buildings and high-rise headquarters. Others, such as HSBC, have turned parts of their headquarters into collaborative workspaces and client meeting rooms.


Consistent models for consistent experiences

Operating a hybrid model poses many benefits to banks – allowing people to adopt working patterns that better suit their personal lives, opening the broader FS industry up to different talent pools, and the potential to see greater productivity being just a few.

However, one core challenge is ensuring the experience each employee receives is consistent across a hybrid environment. Something that is made even more challenging with dispersed teams. While many banks have already made investments into upgrading their office spaces – particularly looking at how best to promote and facilitate collaboration – it’s impossible to cater to everyone’s needs. Especially when you consider the size and scale at which many FS institutions operate.

How then, can banks bring everything together under one consistent model? While the answer does not solely lie with technology, it can certainly go a long way in helping achieve this. Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS), for example, offers banks the flexibility they need to allow employees secure access to their applications, remote desktops, and sensitive data from anywhere.

Not only is this extremely valuable for employees as the customised app and desktop options mean they don’t have to jump through hoops to access everything they need to do their jobs, but it is also beneficial for overall business operations in terms of scalability and productivity.


Cost vs security vs experience

While security has been, and will continue to remain, a priority for banks developing their hybrid work models, for the FS industry and its stringent requirements and regulations, there is no room for error. As such, it’s essential for banks to understand exactly what they can allow employees to do remotely and make certain security is never compromised as part of the process.

To strike the right balance between cost, security, and experience, banks need to move away from deploying VPNs and opt for a more contextualised approach that doesn’t allow access based on just physical or network location. By introducing a zero trust approach across the organisation, security applies way beyond networking, to users, devices, applications, and even how people work. Access is granted on a per-session basis and is continuously enforced, meaning excessive downloads, authentication failures, and geofence violations, are all considered.

Not only does a zero trust mindset ensure the highest levels of security, but it also allows employees access to the data and applications they need with peace of mind. Security is not compromised, and neither is user experience.

It’s clear from the evolution we have already seen that banks are committed to making the necessary changes to meet the expectations of today’s hybrid workforce. While the cultural legacy of bankers working in offices may remain to a certain extent, the fight for talent, staff retention, and updated policies are defining a new culture of banking, with hybrid at the forefront.


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Chris Smith

Chris Smith

Head of Financial Services


Member since

20 Sep 2019



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