Employee focus critical for banks during remote working

04 June 2020 Consultancy.uk 3 min. read

Employee engagement was already a challenge for banks before the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, but with the unfolding of the crisis and its impact, the challenge has only become bigger. Louise Garampon, a management consultant at Eurogroup Consulting, reflects on a number of ways how banks are coping. 

The priority of banks globally is to ensure employees’ safety under the pandemic. Nevertheless, given the segmentation of operations not all employees are equally faced with this crisis, evidenced by the steady increase in the number of sick leaves.

According to one estimate, approximately 60% of banking employees are currently working from home. Indeed, teams including front office, financial advisors and product development have quit their desktops in Canary Wharf to work remotely. 

The challenge then is maintaining employee engagement. Thanks to MS Teams, Zoom, Slack, BlueJeans and other videoconferencing tools, a high level of communication is maintained between employees and their bosses, amongst each other and their teams, as well as with clients and external stakeholders. 

Employee focus critical for banks during remote workingBut while digital has proven its effectiveness in tacking the slack out of some processes, it at the same time is lengthening the time of reaction for those processes that require instant feedback from others. In addition, remote working has heightened the risk of security loopholes.

Remote working offers many advantages, but probably not in terms of functional setup. Traders for instance have been caught complaining about their poor home internet connection, and the discomfort of having a laptop and just ‘three’ screens, as opposed to six in the office. 

For sell-side teams, a slowdown in technology efficiency can have a direct impact on their activity: slow IT hardware can impact transactions. Indeed, when an employee receives a request, tracks the market and returns with an analysis and answer, albeit at a slower pace, the market may have already moved in a different direction making the analysis obsolete. 

Nevertheless, talks of extending the remote working conditions until the end of the summer, and maybe further, should be considered progressive for the overall workplace. 

The importance of employees

Reflecting on the first two months of the crisis, many banks took a step forward in protecting their teams from the virus: in that respect, many financial institutions have jointly taken the path of employee segregation and of a reshuffling of internal teams to prevent simultaneous spreads of the virus. For instance, in Europe, Deutsche Bank split its trading and sales team, while ING separated its employee base into critical functions including Financial Markets, Group Treasury, Payments and Technology. 

In addition, a plethora of e-learning modules and programmes have been launched to assist employees with their daily tasks and quarantine isolation. As a matter of fact, many have reinforced their online training offers (and sports programme), and their cloud-based collaboration document sharing and conferencing tools.

These changes are putting pressure on human resources teams who are sometimes experiencing serious backlog whilst trying to keep the organisation afloat, dealing with temporary regulatory measures across all operating locations.

In spite of everything, one positive overarching observation is that the virus has propelled digitalisation within the organisational realm to a completely different level in the space of just weeks. And, more than ever, the importance of human interactions has become evident.