Old habits die hard

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ft</abbr>.com/content/c2f25d22-67df-441f-be6e-94bc9efb211d">Article from FT:

The benefits to banks of having their staff work from home will "erode over time", Citigroup's investment banking boss Paco Ybarra warned as he made the case for offices hollowed out by the coronavirus pandemic...

"At some point, you would see depreciation of that capital and then you would start seeing problems," he added, pointing to the potential for difficulties with on-the-job learning and people's ability to relate to each other. "Some of the feeling that we have about how well this thing works, I think will erode with time."

Looks like Citi's head of IB is keen on having his teams back in the office for some good old fashion facetime ASAP.

I think professional services jobs are going to be the most culturally resistant to incorporating more WFH flexibility into schedules. Question to me is, if we fail to produce a vaccine within the next 12 months, at what point do senior bankers say "fuck it, you guys have to start coming back in."

Thoughts?

Comments (43)

May 25, 2020

All it takes is 1 person to infect the whole office. If companies don't take proper precautions, they'll have a handful of lawsuits on the way. Outside of NYC might be a different story, but do you really want to work next to someone who commutes via subway everyday? Health and safety >>> some bs "facetime."

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May 26, 2020

Just out of curiosity, in a lawsuit how would someone prove that they received an infection from an employer? Are you under the assumption that they would sue on the fact that their employer required them to perform everyday actions (commuting, working in the office, etc.)?

May 26, 2020

I'm not sure if you have to actually be able to prove it in order to have a legit claim (since, unlike in countries like Korea, the gov here can't actually track/monitor the movement of the virus/the infected within a city). It will be more likely based on circumstantial evidence, like the number of people that suddenly got infected due to a facetime requirement imposed by the employer. You likely need to have sufficient number of people infected at the office after the imposition of the facetime requirement in order to be able to establish some kind of causality, though. Also, as you might imagine, lawsuits like these are brought (more often than not) in order to have a sufficiently plausible claim that's bad for the employer due to PR issues, etc. so that the employer would be forced to settle and make the plaintiffs "whole." Also, even if an employer doesn't actually institute a mandatory facetime requirement and just "hints" at a requirement, such that people are pressured to come into the office (e.g., because it's reasonable to assume in the specific context that you'd get fired or penalized if you don't show up), I think you'd still have sufficient basis to start a lawsuit.

May 27, 2020

You're so right.

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
May 25, 2020

i somewhat agree with him

I read an article of banks doing virtual 'roadshows' for IPOs and questions being raised on if traditional roadshows were unnecessary anymore.. I think its a temporary high from the novelties with WFH but will die down eventually.. i hope at least because im starting to lose my fucking mindddd

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May 26, 2020

Not a banker but I do think the same places that require you to wear a tie will be the same places that make WFH "optional" when everyone knows you'll be culled if you don't come in.

It's very weird to me how some people have this dying need to go into an office and this unusual loyalty to a specific firm. I agree WFH 100% can't be as productive for most people. But there are times where people can be more productive. I think finding a good balance between office work and WFH (like seen in big tech) will come everywhere eventually. Maybe not while I'm still working, but eventually.

"The three most harmful addictions are heroin, carbohydrates, and a monthly salary." - Nassim Taleb

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May 26, 2020

Idk, I could see people suing the firms if they believe they were fired because they were uncomfy coming into work. Ofc, the bank will predict this and try to come up with excuses to try to fire the employee anyways but still something to think about...

Will update my computer soon and leave Incognito so I will disappear forever. How did I achieve Neanderthal by trolling? Some people are after me so need to close account for safety.

May 26, 2020

That's why you don't fire people, you lay them off and claim financial hardship. It's really easy for banks to do this and say markets dried up/ etc.

"The three most harmful addictions are heroin, carbohydrates, and a monthly salary." - Nassim Taleb

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May 29, 2020

I don't have an unusual loyalty to my company, but I would like to start going back to work. Working from home is depressing, and all the days feel like they get merged because you literally just stay in one place week after week.

May 29, 2020

I understand that, WFH 100% of the time is difficult. It's easy to forget what day it is and there's no boundaries set of when your work ends. But I think a mix of the office and WFH can be effective. There's been times I felt chained to my desk needlessly at my previous firm

"The three most harmful addictions are heroin, carbohydrates, and a monthly salary." - Nassim Taleb

May 26, 2020

I'd split 'professional services' into buckets.

Most accountancies and consultancies will end up with more people working from home when this is all over.

Banking, on the other hand, is up in the air.

Array

  • Analyst 1 in Other
May 26, 2020

To me, a very confusing part is actually about recruiting. Banks limit intern spots to sophomores or juniors, while a lot of comanies don't have hard limits on what year you are when you apply for internships. You can even be a self-taught engineer or marketing person or whatever at big firms. But if you are shooting for an internship post college at a big bank, chance is nil before you start.
Old habits die hard. This one is debatable at best.

Most Helpful
May 26, 2020

I actually lean towards the WFH thing not being so rosey and long lasting.

Sure, I think we peeled the band-aid off the occasional WFH one-offs, but not entirely (i.e. let's hope we now have enough trust in WFH that after a late night flight we can WFH the next day).

One angle "everyone" is missing is the fact that humans are deeply jealous, petty, and insecure creatures (I am a cynical bastard).

It is working right now because EVERYONE is doing it. The second they start assigning waves to return to the building and groups feel comfortable going in, it will be a fist fight for getting in the door. No one is going to want to be left out. Insert the type-A personality race for facetime and being a part of the "in-office chosen winners". The process will happen on its own. No lawsuits, no pressure, no complaints. We thrive on the in office politics and positioning in front of seniors and water station gossip. Once we know others are jockeying for that leg up and getting assignments in person our guts are going to twist and all of a sudden we are going to hate the WFH set up.

For instance, I cringe thinking about being the guy on a video monitor while the group is bantering in person before a meeting starts. Humans weren't built for relationships through technology. Better than nothing, but not the solution quite yet.

Pile on the monkey shit mother f'ers...!

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  • Intern in IB - Ind
May 26, 2020

Facts

  • Intern in IB-M&A
May 26, 2020

Nah no MS this is straight facts, hardos are the reason we can't have nice things unfortunately. Gotta worry about them always one upping you so you're forced to play their game too lmao

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Funniest
May 26, 2020

Hardos are the worst.

I can picture it now...

Traditional X firm vs. Y firm debates:

"Definitely Y firm. they work in office, which equals better modeling experience and exit opps. MFs only recruit from in-person analyst programs."

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May 26, 2020

Cool, watch me beat you in office politics when i only show up to the office twice a week and wfh the rest in key west or the hamptons. Most seniors travel half the week anyways and direct work from remote locations. You are probably the same guy that didnt take barely any vacation as a analyst or associate out of fear where as i took every damn day alotted and still got a good bonus and review.

So much good banter at 3am in the office with seniors.

Array

May 26, 2020

I think you missed my outside-looking-in angle brotha.

FWIW, sick nasty flex. I spend my weekends in Southampton and prefer the Vineyard over Key West when I want to stretch my legs. Cause, ya know, Key West ain't exactly my thing...

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May 27, 2020

No MS this is facts. I agree, 95% great but eventually the perfectionist Type A people will want to round out the last 5% which to your point is all the talk / bonding / shooting the shit that happens before / after / between meetings.

May 28, 2020

i think this all has to do with the employee's personal value matrix results for potentially looking good vs. staying safe + flattening curve. personally, i'd like to consider myself to be a try-hard, but i'd still think it's irresponsible to go back into office even if others do

May 26, 2020

I agree with this. Playing office politics is nearly impossible in WFH scenarios. And in our industry there's a ton of it. Good luck trying to position yourself for a promotion over a weekly Zoom call.

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  • Associate 2 in IB - Ind
May 26, 2020

The biggest issue i'm witnessing now, and we'll see this even more over the next 3-4 months, is training the new guys. It's been difficult to work with the 1st years remotely and they already had 7 months at the desk. This will be a much bigger challenge with the analysts that come this summer and will probably require micromanagement which i absolutely loathe (both to give and receive).

I'm not dying to go back to the office by any means, but i don't see this causing a huge shift in the IB work environment long-term. Hopefully 3-4 WFH days a month becomes the norm.

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May 26, 2020

Or maybe WFH whenever you want but obvi have a cap on number of days...

Maybe it will be less frowned upon if the MDs are all gone and people just leave the office to WFH. Had that happen often in my office. We'd find out from the admin if any seniors were in the office and then on those days when they were traveling, we would just WFH. There was a hardo associate who acts like she runs the place who would always report anybody who was WFH though. Worst part was she would often not come into the office herself. The days where we knew she was traveling too...omg then no analyst would show up to the office!

Will update my computer soon and leave Incognito so I will disappear forever. How did I achieve Neanderthal by trolling? Some people are after me so need to close account for safety.

May 26, 2020

This is awesome hahaha.

"Markets can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent."

May 26, 2020

I think the real question (and I have no idea of the answer) is how strongly were we moving in that direction before the virus. Because I don't think the virus experience is going to change the direction of WFH. It will speed it up, to the extent it was already happening. But I don't think there's bosses today who weren't thinking about WFH before and are now like "oh WFH where have you been all my life"

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
May 26, 2020

Prediction: front-office will be the priority for returning.

Opinion: part of what makes an IB work week tolerable are the analysts and associates in the bullpen surrounding you. Why would anyone want to stare at an excel spreadsheet or powerpoint deck by themselves for that long?

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May 26, 2020

Banks eventually will have employees return to work to full capacity. Financial services companies in China an Korea are almost back to normal.

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Ind
May 26, 2020

My bank is personally considering WFH every Friday after this is over.

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May 26, 2020

BANTER
It also depends on people's personality. I love walking around the office and chatting with people. Going in the kitchen and showing cat videos to whoever is there.
Some people hate it, and will put head phones on and focus on their job. On a trading floor you soak in the information from everyone around you, you just can't WFH on a trading floor.

In IB when you are an excel monkey and learning, you lean over your chair and ask the guy next to you how a sumproduct function works or what does EBITDA means. It's a lot harder to learn if you are at home. Call center job and basic blue collar type of office jobs - 100% those should be WFH and if I was running a call centre right now and could just cut my bill by not renting offices I'd do it in a heart beat. You'd get a lot of mother's coming back to work this way as well, as they'd be able to be home with their kids when school is off (am not talking mom's with new born babies - you just can't work when you have a baby around period!)

Am going no where wth this comment. But yea this crisis is fantastic in so many ways - someone mentioned Friday WFH introduced. GIVE ME THAT! Or even Monday and Friday WFH. I see a mix of WFH and office work in our future - and that is the fucking dream

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May 27, 2020

my wife has Monday & Friday WFH and my office may not require people to come in for the rest of the year.

I've said it before, I'll say it again, I love WFH and won't be coming back until I'm forced to. I just don't see the point, the vast majority of my job is meeting people, and I can do that out, don't need to do in office.

I don't think extremes one way or the other are good policy though. if you're a new employee, you need to meet your colleagues until you've found your niche like I have. I'd have hated WFH when I was starting out,

point being, FINRA needs to change the regs to allow the option, and supervisors need to be flexible if their team wants to WFH, you can be just as effective

May 27, 2020

Finance firms should just take this as a golden opportunity to improve retention by simply offering WFH on Friday and Monday. Would be a godsend in Europe - working from London but spending 4 days working from your home town / country or just having more time around your significant other? That would be an amazing benefit.

It begs the question too: Is there something worth preserving in the "finance / banking" culture? Sure, people will still have to work hard, but the notion of facetime for the sake of it in the 21st century is just beyond me. Many firms have proved that people will still work hard and well regardless - that's just how type A people work.

Finance should just strive to be as efficient as possible. Particularly when other great career opps in other industries start offering more flexibility.

Sure, Citi's head of IB is bored. His job's what? Flying around the world and meeting people face-to-face. Does he relate to the job of VPs, associates and analysts who slave away in an office and don't have a shred of a social life? Doubt it.

Array

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May 27, 2020

This is revealing to a broader audience what those on the inside already know: the industry is run by absolute dinosaurs and will not improve.
* Senior bankers don't understand technology or what you can do with it.
* They grew up in a sweatshop environment, in-office 7 days and 100 hours a week so that's the only way they know to run their team. (News flash: a lot of them feel like your 80 hour weeks in office with "protected Saturdays" were already too soft).
* They love formal dress and are kicking and screaming not to change the dress code
* All have stay-at-home wives who raised their kids for them, so they have 0 sympathy for working families, especially fathers

They do not see WFH as a productivity improvement or morale improvement. They see it as a giveaway and a softening of the new generation. So many of them would love to lock you all back down in the office all the time while they travel around again freely to hotels and restaurants. Rules for thee and not for me.

Sorry for the cynical take but this is true for at least 80%+ of IB MDs.

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May 27, 2020

I see this gradually changing with the younger MDs who are more in line with today's generation.

The only problem is the heads of the group are stil lthe dinosaurs yo utalk about.

Will update my computer soon and leave Incognito so I will disappear forever. How did I achieve Neanderthal by trolling? Some people are after me so need to close account for safety.

May 27, 2020

Don't worry, guys. In September, we will have lived in our home states for >182 days, meaning we will get taxed by where we are WFH. Meaning we should all get way more money unless you are still living in SF or NY...

Will update my computer soon and leave Incognito so I will disappear forever. How did I achieve Neanderthal by trolling? Some people are after me so need to close account for safety.

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May 28, 2020

Lol he is talking his book, would suck to have to mark down the office they just bought. Lockdown has shown companies don't need big offices and office real estate isn't what it was https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-04-12...

May 29, 2020
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