UBS lets most employees work from home and in the office on a permanent basis

UBS plans to mix up to two-thirds of its employees permanently from home with the office, which gives the Swiss lender an advantage over Wall Street banks when it comes to recruiting.

According to experts, the move towards a hybrid working model was led by Chief Executive Ralph Hamers and his top managers and underscores the growing gap with the tougher approach of many US banks.

The Swiss bank has decided that only employees whose roles have to be performed due to regulatory requirements or to perform certain tasks in the office, such as dealers and branch employees, have little or no flexibility in their work practices.

An internal analysis of the 72,000 employees worldwide showed that, according to information from people familiar with the subject, around two thirds were in positions that would enable hybrid work.

UBS’s stance corresponds to the stance of European competitors like the French Société Générale, but is in stark contrast to the approach taken by several US banks, including JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, which have sent employees back to work in New York.

After more than a year with most bankers working from home offices, guest rooms and kitchen tables, UBS’s decision signals that a legacy of the pandemic could be a fundamental split in working practices between European and American banks.

UK-based banks HSBC and Standard Chartered have announced plans to allow employees to work from home or in locations close to home to reduce office space and avoid the commute to the city.

In an internal communication to employees published last week and viewed by the Financial Times, UBS said, “We strive to give you the flexibility to work in a hybrid way (a mix of working in the office and working from home), in the role, tasks and location “enable”.

But employees who are offered hybrid work must also be present in the office for certain activities after consultation with their supervisor.

The bank, based in Zurich, has not yet set a date for the return of employees to the office. UBS declined to comment.

In contrast, Goldman employees have already been called back to the bank’s New York headquarters, while JPMorgan’s US employees are expected to switch to a regular roster starting July 6.

James Gorman, CEO of Morgan Stanley, most strongly urged employees to return to the office. “If you can go to a restaurant in New York City, you can come into the office and we want you in the office,” he said at a recent corporate event.

Citigroup has so far been one of the few large US banks to introduce a hybrid working model in which employees are allowed to work from home up to two days a week.

Although UBS only moved to 5 Broadgate, one of the largest buildings in the City of London, five years ago, UBS has long sought ways to enable more employees to work from home.

Last year it experimented with providing its London-based dealers with augmented reality headsets that allow them to recreate the experience of working in a crowded trading floor without leaving their home.

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