The case for cloud when WFH

By Vikas Srivastava, chief revenue office, Integral

12 November 2020

As countries across Europe return to lockdown, the world’s global banking giants are sending their staff home. Many of the top banks have publicly announced plans to return workers to the kitchen table or the bedroom desk after a brief period of allowing the option to work in the office. And some people are not happy about it. 

It’s fair to say that there are both business and emotional reasons why employees may not be keen to go back home full time. While we have all gotten used to multiple video conferences every day, there is no replacement for building relationships with colleagues and customers face-to-face. Likewise, the workforce may be equally productive while working from home but fostering innovation in a virtual environment is harder to achieve. Of course, some will simply feel cooped up.

There may even be reluctance by some bankers to work from home because they want an office setup to trade the financial markets and manage risk effectively. Currency and bond desks were some of the first to rush back to the office (with some never actually working from home from March to May) in order to help bring the market back to normal. As the London offices of one of the largest global banks has demonstrated, the majority of those reluctant to work from home are traders.

But why shouldn’t we be able to make trading and managing risk easier from our home offices? As some eye up a greater work-life balance, and firms roll out hybrid working plans for 2021, a new set of questions around supporting employees both in and out of the office have arisen. 

The increase in FX volatility in March provided the circumstances for those banks with their market making abilities off-premise to make enough profit for their desks to last the rest of the year. As volatility in FX remains higher than in the previous ten years, other firms will not want to miss out in these winter months. 

For some FX and bond market traders to only be able to perform their role effectively with on-premise systems contained within bricks and mortar, shows the challenges many financial institutions face within their existing technology stack. 

Banks will need to look again at cloud computing as the technology that enables you to work effectively from anywhere. Firms that have properly implemented cloud-based software have been the winners during remote working the last few months and the use of flexible infrastructure will continue to be a measurement of success in a firm’s architecture.

The pandemic has changed the way every industry thinks of remote working. And it would be short-sighted to think that in the future, remote working will be completely over too. The truth is that companies need to fully support remote working arrangements for their staff, come what may. Some companies in the tech industry – such as Twitter – have even suggested a work from home forever policy and others including Google, Microsoft and PayPal are extending this as an option for the foreseeable future. 

The answer then lies in a hybrid working environment for all, including traders at investment banks. Having the choice to decide the optimal ratio between going to the office and working at home – based on an individual’s and a company’s situation and risk tolerance – is a far better way to choose how and where to work moving forward.

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