- Wall Street jobs pay well, but work-from-home opportunities tend to be slim.
- Return-to-office policies are also constantly changing at banks, brokerage firms, and hedge funds.
- See the latest RTO policies at the biggest financial firms like JPMorgan, Blackstone, and Citadel.
Every day it seems as if another company is calling its workers back to the office. Even online meeting company Zoom, which benefits from remote work, has joined the return-to-office drumbeat.
On Wall Street, these demands are nothing new. Investment banks like Goldman Sachs and hedge funds like Citadel have been at the forefront of efforts to get employees working in the same place again. Goldman’s CEO David Solomon famously blasted the work-from-home phenomenon as an “aberration” before most Americans were even vaccinated. Citadel’s Ken Griffin said he feared that work-from-home was harming the nation and wished President Joe Biden would do something about it.
Fast forward to 2023, and financial firms are still fine-tuning their policies, mainly to get more bodies in the door on the regular. According to Goldman’s chief economist, Jan Hatzius, some 25% of all US workers work from home at least part of the week. That’s down from a pandemic peak of 47%, but well above the pre-pandemic average of 2.6%, Hatzius said.
In April, JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon walked back the bank’s hybrid work policy by ordering its highest-ranking executives to return to the office five days a week. Just last month, Bloomberg reported that Goldman was once again cracking down on return-to-office laggards. The report said that the latest crackdown is aimed primarily at back-office workers, who tend to support revenue-generating employees like bankers and traders who have been coming in five days a week for some time.
Of course, there could be a price to pay for companies being too strict with their return-to-office requests. Business consulting firm Deloitte recently surveyed 700 financial services professionals: manager-level through senior leadership just below the C-suite. Of those who work at home at least part of the week, 66% said they would leave their current role if they were mandated to go to the office five days a week.
So, which Wall Street firms are still letting employees work from home at least part of the time? Here is our list of back-to-work mandates at the largest financial services companies.
Goldman Sachs started calling workers back in June 2021 and has consistently been one of the few financial firms to demand pretty much everyone return to the office five days a week.
Goldman started by welcoming employees back with ice cream and food trucks to get there. By 2022, it was actively monitoring attendance via ID badge swipes. More recently, it cracked down on laggards, reminding staffers that the 5-days-a-week policy is for everyone — even during the dog days of summer.
JPMorgan started calling workers back in July 2021 on a rolling basis, and by 2022, had developed a hybrid work policy that was supposed to result in just 50% of the bank’s employees returning to the office five days a week, including people who work in bank branches or in investment-banking jobs like sales and trading.
Earlier this year, Dimon took a different tack, requiring the bank’s managing directors to return to the office five days a week, whether they work in demanding revenue-producing jobs or lead back-office departments like technology and compliance. Everyone else must be in at least three days a week.
Citi’s CEO Jane Fraser is one of the few Wall Street CEOs who has not participated in the work-from-home bashing. Instead, she’s embraced a hybrid work policy that currently allows most employees to work three days from the office and two days at home, depending on the job. Bank branch employees, for example, are still required to go in five days a week.
Fraser has also not shied away from reminding the troops that working from home is a privilege, not a right. At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, she said the bank was calling workers with productivity issues back to their desks.
“We do measure productivity very carefully,” she said, according to Bloomberg. “You can see how productive someone is or isn’t, and if they’re not being productive we bring them back to the office, or back to the site, and we give them the coaching they need until they bring the productivity back up again.”
Bank of America
Bank of America’s policy has morphed over time. Last year, it was encouraging employees to work from the office more often than not, but leaving room for flexibility at the manager’s discretion. Spotty attendance had some top managers concerned, however, and by May 2022 investment banking employees at all levels were being ordered to return to the office between four and five days a week.
In October, Bank of America updated its policy to require employees who are client-facing, like bankers, or dependent on in-office tools, like traders, to be in the office or meeting with clients five days a week with occasional flexibility. Everyone else was told to come into the office three days a week, according to a copy of the memo obtained by Insider.
Morgan Stanley’s CEO James Gorman has been another vocal proponent of office work, telling Bloomberg earlier this year that working from home is “not a choice.”
“They don’t get to choose their compensation, they don’t get to choose their promotion, they don’t get to choose to stay home five days a week,” Gorman said in an interview in Davos.
That said, Gorman doesn’t expect a return to the office’s pre-pandemic norms of five days a week. “We won’t put the genie back in the bottle,” he said of the work-from-home phenomenon triggered by the pandemic. “At Morgan Stanley, we’re kind of business unit by business unit. It’s three or four days in the office.”
BlackRock is expecting its employees to make more use of its new Hudson Yards headquarters in New York City after Labor Day.
In May, the world’s largest asset manager announced that it would mandate its employees to work in the office four days a week starting in September, with the option to work from home one day per week, according to a memo viewed by Insider. They were previously expected to be in the office three days a week.
In a Fox Business interview last year, BlackRock CEO Larry Fink said the firm would be taking a “harder line” at bringing employees back to the office.
“We are going to ask our employees to be much more mindful about their responsibilities in the office. We’re going to be taking a line as to: How do we bring our employees back? And we believe this is going to be a key element in bringing down inflation and rising productivity,” he said.
Citadel’s Griffin is a true believer that teams work better and faster when they’re in the same room. His $59 billion hedge fund and his market maker, Citadel Securities, have been full time in the office since June 2021. Citadel had its best year ever to date in 2022, when it made about $28 billion in revenue.
“We make so much money because our competition plays in their pajamas – and that’s just been a home run for us,” Griffin told Goldman partner Raj Mahajan in an interview for the bank’s Talks at GS series in June.
Blackstone employees have been back in the office five days a week since June 2021.
To make its staff more comfortable with the initial return to office, Blackstone spent $20 million on Covid safety and specific precautions, a source told Insider in 2021, including covering cab fares for employees’ commute.
Bridgewater Associates, the world’s largest hedge fund, has kept to a flexible schedule. Since September 2021, the fund has required staff to be in the office a minimum of two days a week.
Managers and department heads, however, can require additional days in the office, according to the firm’s website. On days employees are in, the firm focuses on taking “advantage of our shared location,” it reads.
Izzy Englander’s Millennium experimented with a hybrid working arrangement back in 2021. At that time, the firm called for its employees to come into the office a minimum of three days a week.
Since then, most employees have been in the office throughout the week, according to a person familiar with the firm.