UBS plans to allow up to two-thirds of its employees to mix home and office work on a permanent basis, and betting on this approach will give the Swiss lender an edge over Wall Street banks upon appointment.
CEO Ralph Hammers and his senior managers have led the move toward adopting a hybrid business model, according to people familiar with the matter, and it underscores the growing gap with the more hawkish approach many US banks have taken.
The Swiss bank has decided that employees whose roles require them to be done in the office only due to supervisory rules or to carry out specific tasks, such as merchants and branch employees, will have little or no flexibility in their work practices.
An internal analysis of a global workforce of 72,000 showed that nearly two-thirds were in jobs that allowed for hybrid work, according to people familiar with the matter.
UBS’s position echoes European counterparts such as France Societe GeneraleBut it contrasts starkly with the approach taken by several US banks, including JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, which have ordered employees in New York to return to work.
After more than a year in which most bankers worked from home offices, spare rooms and kitchen tables, the UBS decision suggests that one legacy of the pandemic may be a fundamental divide in business practices between European and US banks.
UK-based banks HSBC and Standard Chartered They announced plans to allow employees to work from home or at “close to home” locations to reduce the office footprint and avoid city commuting.
In an internal letter to employees published last week and seen by the Financial Times, UBS said, “We are committed to offering you flexibility for mixed work (a combination of work from the office and from home) where role, tasks and location allow.”
However, even employees who are offered mixed work will still be required to attend the office for certain activities, as agreed with their manager.
The bank, which is headquartered in Zurich, has not yet set a date when employees will be asked to return to the office. UBS declined to comment.
By contrast, Goldman employees have already been ordered to return to the bank’s headquarters in New York, while JPMorgan employees in the United States are expected to move to a regular schedule in the office from July 6.
James Gorman, CEO of Morgan Stanley, was the sharpest In inviting employees to return to the office. “If you can go to a restaurant in New York City, you can come to the office and we want you in the office,” he said at a recent company event.
Citigroup is one of the few US banks to date to offer a hybrid business model, allowing employees to work from home for up to two days a week.
Despite moving just five years ago to 5 Broadgate, one of the largest buildings in the City of London, UBS has long looked for ways to allow more employees to work from home.
Last year I tried a version with London-based merchants augmented reality headphones, allowing them to re-experience working in a crowded commercial floor without leaving their homes.