HSBC ditches social distancing for UK bankers in office return push

HSBC is removing social distancing restrictions for investment bankers and traders in Canary Wharf and rolling out ‘refresher weeks’ for employees returning to the office, as the UK lender pushes for a wider return after a sustained period of working from home.

Staff within HSBC’s global banking, markets and securities services units will “start to return to regular seating configurations to meet the needs of their businesses”, according to a memo sent earlier in September to employees in the UK.

The UK lender has been one of the more cautious large investment banks throughout the pandemic, with less than 10% of the 10,000 or so employees at its London headquarters in Canada Square coming into the office.

However, the bank has now put measures in place to allow more staff to return, including removing social distancing requirements and restoring its elevators — which were restricted to two people at a time during the pandemic — to full capacity as the City and Canary Wharf open up again.

READ Goldman Sachs scraps free food and social distancing in UK office return push

For staff returning after a long absence, HSBC is running ‘refresher weeks’ from 13 to 24 September as an “opportunity for teams to get together in person to collaborate and innovate, and experience the benefits of the office again”.

Some employees have also been handed treats including beer and wine, employees told Financial News, while breakfast and lunch is being provided free of charge.

Bloomberg reported that sales and trading staff in London were now required to come into the office five days a week. This also applies to certain investment banking functions such as syndicates, but some flexibility remains for these roles and the bank is continuing with a hybrid model for most of its staff, according to a person familiar with the matter.

READ City investment banks push for September office return as Wall Street falters on Delta spike

Large investment banks in the City continue to overhaul their offices in anticipation of a broader return for employees. Goldman Sachs, which has around 50% of its 6,000 London staff coming into its Plumtree Court headquarters, lifted social distancing requirements earlier in September.

JPMorgan has around 35-40% of London employees coming into the office, and removed some 33,000 stickers outlining Covid-19 restrictions in anticipation of more staff coming into the office.

HSBC is maintaining other Covid-19 safety measures including the wearing of masks and hand sanitiser, and still requires employees to book a desk in advance for “internal track and trace purposes”, the memo added.

To contact the author of this story with feedback or news, email Paul Clarke

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