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Wall Street banks' latest messages on return-to-office policies might seem flexible, but the underlying message is clear: Come back to your desks.

Aaron Weinman   

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.

This post first appeared in 10 Things on Wall Street, a newsletter by Insider that brings you all the biggest stories dominating the finance industry — delivered daily to your inbox. Sign up here. Download Insider's app here.

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.

In other news:

2. Gustavo Arnal, Bed Bath & Beyond's chief financial officer, was identified as the man who fell to his death from an apartment in New York. His death comes as the retailer looks to revise its debt structure, cut its workforce, and close 150 stores.

3. Canyon Partners, a $21 billion hedge fund, focuses on distressed loans, event-driven equities, and arbitrage. The fund is predicting a wave of bankruptcies and broke down its playbook for a fractured market.

4. In less than two years as Citi's chief executive, Jane Fraser unveiled plans to exit Russia, pare down risky assets, and sell consumer-banking businesses around the world. Analysts said that Fraser is taking the bank in the right direction, but that monumental challenges remain, according to this analysis from Reuters.

5. A former Goldman Sachs employee said male colleagues mimicked the squeezing of breasts when she used the company's lactation room. She also said that her colleagues once put a toy cow on her desk as she used the area.

6. Ernst & Young executives are closing in on a plan to split the financial-services company. A group of leaders met on Labor Day to hash out the details to a plan that would separate EY's auditing business from its consulting services.

7. The head of research at crypto investment firm Arca explains barriers and catalysts for success on the ethereum network. Katie Talati runs research at the $600 million crypto shop, and said that layer-2s can "turbocharge" the ethereum blockchain growth.

8. SoftBank is planning to cut at least 20% of staff at its Vision Fund operation, Bloomberg reported. The company will cut at least 100 positions, and they may be announced later this month.

9. The Federal Reserve has terminated a decade-long enforcement action against HSBC. The British bank was ordered to improve practices after violating money laundering and sanction rules. In 2012, HSBC was accused of being a "preferred financial institution" for drug cartels.

10. Startups in the marketing and media spaces are using tech to disrupt advertising. Here are 30 pitch decks that they're using to raise millions of dollars from top investors.

Done deals:

  • Digital grocery delivery company Instacart said it will acquire Eversight, a platform that helps retailer and packaged-goods companies determine pricing. Union Square Advisors advised Eversight.
  • Camera maker Nikon said it will buy German 3D metal-printing machine maker SLM Solutions Group for $622 million.

Curated by Aaron Weinman in New York. Tips? Email or tweet @aaronw11. Edited by Hallam Bullock (tweet @hallam_bullock) in London.

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