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How is the Finance Sector handling Hybrid Working?

An hour is not a particularly long period of time but our panel of six experts took on the challenge to begin tackling the huge question: 'how will the financial services industry handle hybrid working?' for the latest FS HR & Compliance Network Webinar. Ranging from regulatory and legal perspectives, to technology and health and wellbeing perspectives, this webinar approached the question from every possible angle.

As with all our FSHRC events we began with a quick summation of the financial regulatory landscape and a run down of the crucial updates to regulation that have occurred in the last two months. James Turner, an Associate Director at Osborne Clarke, made this update genuinely enjoyable, digestible and interesting as he honed in on two regulatory hot topics: the high court's recent rejection of Amigo Loan's proposal to cap customer compensation claims and the Bank of England's report on digital currencies. Here he predominantly discussed the FCA's approach to schemes of arrangement as well as discussing the potential implications of the FCA's rules on consumer duty and the SMCR and governance implications.

"There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen"

Having set the scene with a regulatory update we then moved on to discuss hybrid working itself. Olivia Sinfield, Partner at Osborne Clarke, opened with the brilliant quote from John Lennon: ‘There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen’ . Pointing out that we were well within the realm of the latter, Olivia went on to explain how major firms such as HSBC, JP Morgan and Deloitte have all declared a move towards hybrid working models and that 9/10 firms have stated they will undergo significant change to facilitate remote working. Olivia's particularly valuable insight was that whilst many firms talk about moving towards a hybrid model, many of them haven’t actually solidified plans for what their hybrid models will look like. Crucially this highlights the fact that hybrid working is a very complex and new concept for most organisations, and therefore one that is to be handled with thought, care and flexibility.

" will very much be a case of playing 3D chess when it comes to those issues"

Next, Prianca Patel, a Senior Associate at Osborne Clarke, worked through the six main legal implications of hybrid working models. In just 15 minutes, Prianca covered everything from the legal risks of global mobility, the potential need to rethink and reshape employee onboarding, to whether firms should formalize their shifts to hybrid models in contracts or use more informal approaches. Prianca insightfully stated 'now more than ever policies do matter', we couldn't agree more. In regard to global mobility she highlighted possible issues surrounding immigration status, cooperate tax and personal taxation, summarizing that it will 'very much be a case of playing 3D chess when it comes to those issues’. This seems a fitting visual encapsulation of just how complex this shift to hybrid working could be for firms from a legal and regulatory standpoint. Expanding on this, James came back to remind the listeners about the potential regulatory risks around market misuse and misconduct, which will potentially become one of the biggest issues firms will face in terms of managing and protecting data with many mores employees working from home.

Whilst Prianca, Olivia and James highlighted just how seismic the shift to hybrid models will be for firms in terms of reorganisation and restructuring, the panellists were called upon for their views. Tom Holmes, Director of Veran Performance, drew the audience's attention to the role that technology plays in how firms are implementing change. Mainly he emphasised the fundamentality of the cloud in the move towards an essentially virtual approach to work. However, with this shift, Tom astutely pointed out the possible issues regarding data security and information safeguarding which firms will face.

"...a people-centric approach...divided in to four categories"

Moving then into an actual example of how a firm has planned to tackle hybrid working models, Lucy Bond, Deputy Chief of Staff for Infrastructure at Man Group, offered valuable insight into how her own firm has structured its plan for a hybrid working model. The key takeaway we got from Lucy was the emphasis her firm placed on a people-centric approach to hybrid working models which based the allocation of employees on practicality and a consideration of where people are best placed to work. Here she alluded to four categories which were as follows : 2/3 days in the office, 5 days in the office, strictly at home and a category for those who roam or travel, referring to sales teams in particular. Essentially the idea was to assign employees to these four categories based on their roles and what would best work to maximize the productivity and efficiency of those employees in their given roles. This seemed like a really interesting model that is useful to think about if your firm operates with a high headcount and on an international scale.

"Listen to understand, not to respond"

Finally, in quite a significant shift away from legalities, Matt Phelan spoke about safeguarding culture and ensuring the psychological welfare of employees during this change. It is just worth mentioning at this point that we think he has the best title ever: ‘Global Head of Happiness at the Happiness Index’ and his insights certainly lived up to his title. Loosely speaking Matt gave his view on how he thinks culture can be maintained, what he believes good culture actually is and how this can be measured. In one of the top quotes of the session, Matt suggested that good culture and respect could be upheld by managers doing one simple thing: "Listen to understand, not to respond and when you have understood, respond. People can handle being told the truth but they cannot handle being lied to. Be open with your teams."

A lovely message to leave on, as we thought this was applicable not only to managers within firms but to all of us as individuals. There was A LOT of food for thought in this webinar and we learnt a lot. You can watch the full session by clicking the link below. It is well worth a listen!

For more information about the FS HR & Compliance Network and questions about this episode, please get in touch


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