UBS CEO Says It’s Hard to Sustain Culture Working at Home

(Bloomberg) — UBS Group AG Chief Executive Officer Sergio Ermotti added his voice to a chorus of finance executives concerned about having so many employees working remotely.

It’s especially difficult for banks to create and sustain cohesiveness and a culture when employees stay at home, he said at a Bank of America conference on Tuesday. A rate of 85% of people working remotely is “not sustainable” for banks and a normal level for UBS should be about 20% to 30% at any time.

Sergio Ermotti wearing a suit and tie: Day Three Of The World Economic Forum (WEF) 2020

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Day Three Of The World Economic Forum (WEF) 2020

Sergio Ermotti


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Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

JPMorgan Chase & Co. CEO Jamie Dimon said last week that he sees prolonged remote work inflicting serious social and economic damage, while BlackRock Inc. Chief Executive Officer Larry Fink said he worries that working remotely results in a lack of productivity and collaboration.

While some big Wall Street firms are seeking to get staff back to the office, there are already signs of how challenging that could be. JPMorgan sent some workers home after an employee in equities trading tested positive for Covid-19.

Europe is no different. Traders at Barclays Plc’s London headquarters were sent home at the start of this month after two employees tested positive for coronavirus, according to Financial News. Staff who had interacted with the pair were sent home to quarantine for 14 days, it said, citing a Sept. 2 memo. Barclays declined to comment.

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson encouraged office workers to stay home when possible. Johnson on Tuesday tightened the U.K.’s coronavirus restrictions and warned Britons the new rules are likely to be in place for six months, as the government tries to stamp out a resurgence of the disease.

UBS employs just short of 70,000 people in 50 countries and had 80% of its worldwide staff at home during the height of the pandemic. Chief Operating Officer Sabine Keller-Busse said earlier this year that as many as a third of its employees could work remotely on a permanent basis.

(Updates with Barclays quarantine in fifth paragraph, U.K. policy in sixth)

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