‘At last, the banks seem to have woken up’ Bridging Industry reacts to bringing staff back to the office

Speculation has mounted that banks are currently trying to get more employees back into the office after years of working from home (WFH), following the covid pandemic.

Some major UK banks have reportedly offered free food to entice employees back into the physical workspace, while others could allegedly dock bonuses if employees do not meet a required number of days in the office per week.

In April 2020 — just after covid hit the shores of the UK — 46.6% of those in employment had an element of WFH, with 86% claiming they did so due to the pandemic.

During the same period, 69.9% of professional occupations and 67.3% of managers, directors and senior directors were also WFH.

As of the 5th of February 2023, 40% of working adults reported WFH at some point throughout the week, down from the height of 49% of people after the first lockdown in 2020.

However, it looks as though the WFH habits of the banking sector may be winding to a halt as firms begin trying to find ways to bring workers back into the office, reportedly using tactics such as monitoring staff attendance.

B&C has asked members of the bridging and commercial industry what they think WFH and office working brings to the industry and what the news means to the sector.

Chris Gardner, joint CEO at Atelier, commented: “Every company must decide what’s best for them and their teams, but I see development finance and bridging finance as creative industries where the power and efficiency of in-person collaboration should not be underestimated.

“Most people would agree, regardless [that] the industry productivity and customer service aren’t as good as they were pre-pandemic, when people were in the office 100% of the time.

“So perhaps the balance between office life and WFH hasn’t yet found its equilibrium — only time will tell, however back in 2020 who would have thought that being office based might just turn out to be a competitive advantage?”

Michael Stratton, CEO and founder of MS Lending Group, added: “Since inception, we have always maintained that we want to be a fully office-based business; I believe productivity is greater.

“The ability to interact with others and learn from colleagues is something that cannot be created on a Teams call — culture is another one, the people are what makes the culture, and I believe it makes it a lot more difficult when people are remote.

“The growth in our business and success, I believe, is down to being in the office, learning from one another, bouncing ideas off each other and collaboration.”

Kevin Jones, CEO at Omega Group, also said: “I firmly believe that the practice of WFH has cost the UK greatly, affecting the productivity within the country.

“Looking at my own commercial finance industry, the time it now takes to process a case from start to a satisfactory completion has increased immensely, with each and every stage of the sales process taking far longer due to the length of time to speak to lenders, valuers and, most of all, the legal profession.

“There may be certain sectors of business that can be as productive from a home-working scenario, but not in a service industry.

“At last, the banks seem to have woken up to this fact, and hopefully the other associated services will do the same sooner rather than later, leading to quicker valuations and legals.

“As far as I am concerned, the quicker people return to an office-based working environment and with it having greater accountability, the quicker our industry and the UK economy will return to some normality.”

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