One-third of UBS staff could permanently work remotely

The UBS Group AG logo sits on the bank's skyscraper offices in Frankfurt, Germany, on Tuesday, July 17, 2018. Frankfurt's efforts to attract bankers escaping Brexit are in danger of losing momentum. Photographer: Alex Kraus/Bloomberg
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UBS may never bring all of its employees back to the office in a post-Covid-19 environment.

Chief Operating Officer Sabine Keller-Busse said that as many as a third of its employees could work remotely on a permanent basis. The Swiss bank employs just short of 70,000 people in 50 countries and had 80% of its worldwide staff at home during the height of the pandemic. The bank is now looking at allowing employees back on site in a staggered approach by region.

UBS is still assessing which roles will return to the office, Keller-Busse said in an interview during Bloomberg’s Invest Global event on Monday. Back-office roles are more likely to continue working remotely, while trading operations are more easily conducted on the premises, according to Keller-Busse.

The policy shift involves a modest number of advisors in Texas as wealth managers also gear up for office reopenings.
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“We will see a hybrid situation,” said Keller-Busse. “We will see quite less travel.” She added that for some roles, such as bankers preparing an initial public offering, being physically present will remain important, while advisory relationships with wealthy clients can continue virtually.

Keller-Busse expects the rest of the banking industry to implement similar splits between home and the office, resulting in a lesser need for real estate in the longer term. She said the bank is also preparing to pause or reverse its plans if second waves of infection occur.

Rival Credit Suisse has said that the rise of online banking, accelerated by the pandemic, could lead to less real estate and fewer employees in the medium term, Bloomberg reported. Credit Suisse is bringing employees back to the office in four phases and is offering antibody pilot testing for employees in its major hubs.

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