Global Finance Wants to Protect Its Culture. First, It Should Reform It
Bloomberg Markets|December 2020 - January 2021
EVERYWHERE, the stewards of capitalism are in flux, grappling with the implications of a radically different future that’s set to play out from home offices, living rooms, and kitchen tables around the world.
SREE VIDYA BHAKTAVATSALAM

This is a big moment for an industry that has long lionized alpha-male “tough guys” who wear their stamina as a badge of honor and view the need for work-life flexibility as an admission of weakness. From New York to London to Hong Kong, the hard-charging culture of finance has been tied to the towering edifices that cram in thousands of overachievers, the cutthroat chaos of the trading floors, and the relentless schmoozing that accompanies the entry into the upper echelons.

The new workplace reality, with hundreds of thousands of bankers working from home for the foreseeable future, has spurred considerable angst among the financial elite. One by one, powerful men have lamented the damage to their companies’ cultures— cultures they’ve benefited from and sought to perpetuate. Sergio Ermotti, who stepped down as chief executive officer of Zurich-based UBS Group AG on Nov. 1, said it’s “especially difficult for banks to create and sustain cohesiveness and a culture when employees stay at home.”

In September, JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s Jamie Dimon pushed for a return to normal, warning of slipping productivity and alienation among workers. BlackRock Inc.’s Laurence Fink worried about the serendipitous “water cooler moments” being lost as Zoom calls supplant impromptu encounters. Senior leaders at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Barclays Plc, and others have pointed to the vital role that face-to-face interactions play in preserving the fabric of their companies’ cultures.

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