Over the past few months, I have had numerous conversations with clients and candidates in the Investment Management industry about remote working experiences. As we passed the one-year anniversary of our first Covid lockdown in London, I caught up with Senior Operations leaders at a few top Investment Managers to answer some questions and discuss their thoughts about what we’ll see in the industry moving forward.
All the clients I spoke to mentioned that one of the biggest challenges teams faced in the early stages of lockdown, was coping with the market volatility and increased trading volumes while making the rapid transition to home working. Fortunately, operational teams adapted and quickly adopted remote technology to support the efforts of front office teams without restricting trading volumes.
“To a large extent, we found counterparties were also in a good position so that we were able to continue trading, and matching, affirming and settling trades right away even while working from home.”
Several clients, I spoke to also highlighted the challenges of delayed communication and increased email traffic, while they worked to find the most effective communication strategies. While many missed the casual interactions with co-workers, they found attempts to create this environment on team building or “social” video calls didn’t last, as everyone quickly felt fatigued by the amount of digital communication.
During this time employee well-being and mental health was also a top priority for managers, and the businesses I spoke to provided equipment to help staff work from home comfortably and effectively, plus offering ongoing support and resources for mental health.
“The company focused on well-being, mental health and wellness already, but it became a bigger focus during this time. It’s important to make sure people are looking after themselves and staying sane.”
Although recruitment and hiring slowed significantly due to the uncertainty in the early months of Covid, since then most businesses have made multiple hires and on-boarded new staff using an entirely remote process. Most organisations seem to agree that this has been successful and can be an effective way to hire staff, but when it comes to training and making someone feel a part of the team, time spent in person is still very important. Both clients and candidates have become more comfortable with video interviews, and most managers I spoke to said they would continue utilizing them when it helps broaden the search or make the process more efficient.
“it’s good to know now that we have the option of using video calls to assist with the interview process, especially now that both sides have become more comfortable with using the technology.”
Despite the challenges, many teams and individuals have also appreciated the positives of remote working. Every team manager I spoke to felt that remote working had been more successful than anticipated, and they were pleased with the efforts of their teams. By skipping the daily commute, people enjoyed having more free time to spend with family or pursuing other interests without having to sacrifice work.
“We’ve shown that we can do it, and it’s been refreshing to see how people have reacted.”
“Some individuals have always been suspicious of WFH, now the challenge will be people saying I’ve shown I can WFH, why do I need to go in?”
What comes next is now the topic on everyone’s mind. Some companies have already started to announce policies, but all the organisations that I spoke to said they are still in the process of determining the best approach for them and feel that it is critical to strike the right balance. Exactly what the right balance will look like remains to be seen, however, all agreed that returning to a mandatory five-day week in the office is very unlikely now that they have experienced flexible working first-hand.
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Rachele Foote is a Consultant in our Investment Management Operations Team at Goodman Masson specialising in permanent roles.
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