Wall Street banks' latest messages on return-to-office policies might seem flexible, but the underlying message is clear: Come back to your desks.
For investment bankers, September can be one of the busiest months, as borrowers flock to the capital markets, and M&A agreements fly in thick and fast.
It's a bit of a sprint between now and the Thanksgiving holiday, when bankers typically hit the brakes again. And this time around, that sprint might involve more water-cooler chatter as Wall Street institutions clear a path for more staff to return to their offices.
Jefferies wants employees back consistently, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley are clearing COVID-19 testing hurdles, and Credit Suisse bankers could be wondering whether they'll get to keep their job at the Swiss lender.
Let's unpack where Wall Street stands on in-office expectations.
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1. For all the talk of flexibility around the return to work, big banks are not really hiding their desire to fill their office spaces. Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley are suspending testing for COVID, while Jefferies wants staff back to get through its backlog of business.
Bankers are still torn over the issue. Most love the flexibility of being able to work from home for at least portions of the week. Some told me they're just as productive from home in their board shorts and flip flops. And if 2020 and 2021 deal-making numbers were anything to go by, I'm inclined to agree.
Another banker who was in the Outer Banks in North Carolina last month told me he didn't want to leave the beach, and immediately texted me a picture of him and his golden retriever, who seemed to be having a jolly good time.
The fact of the matter, however, is that Wall Street's top bosses want their employees back in the office more. No bank has outright said that workers have to be at their desks five days a week, but the message is that these banks are doing everything to fill up their office floors.
Goldman Sachs will let staff outside New York enter offices regardless of vaccination status. There will be no requirement to wear face coverings and no need for regular testing.
Morgan Stanley told its New York staff that it is ending testing and no longer disseminating notifications regarding any exposure to COVID.
Jefferies took a different approach. The bank asked employees to come in on a more "consistent basis" to get through its investment-banking backlog of work. Jefferies has no issue when employees need to work from home, but it wants senior bankers to be present to motivate their minions.
JPMorgan and Citi, meanwhile, have not outlined any official policy change.
Citi still expects staff to be on the premises three days a week.
JPMorgan's Chief Executive Jamie Dimon has been clear that he wants more employees in offices. Earlier this year, the bank went Orwellian, at least it seemed to some employees, when it took to ID tracking to ensure in-office quotas were being met.
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