In the first of this two-part series exploring what hybrid work means in the funds industry we start by exploring what hybrid work is and discuss the different models companies are adopting. Come back next week for part two where we interview leading industry peers on the topic.
Remember 2019? Me neither. The last 18+ months have turned the world and people’s lives upside down. Back in 2019, we used to drag ourselves to our offices on Monday mornings, fuel ourselves with coffee and somehow get through the week.
Well, for many people in the funds industry, all of that is a distant memory. The pandemic has completely upended the notion of going into work and left in its place a patchwork of returning to the office full time, working remotely from home or a hybrid of both.
There hasn’t been an industry untouched by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thankfully, the funds industry has proven its resilience during this period. Companies quickly moved from fully onsite work to everyone working from home with little disruption to client services.
Improvements in the availability of broadband and new collaboration technology like Zoom, Slack and Teams have played a big part in this success. It’s hard to see how the industry would have managed if COVID-19 had happened 10 years ago when widespread remote work connectivity did not exist.
The question has been asked and the votes are in! According to a recent future of work report by Accenture, 83% of people identified a hybrid model as being optimal in the future.
Not everyone has this luxury and without downplaying the challenges, working in the funds industry has largely been a privileged position during the pandemic relative to some industries. Essential workers out there — we see you and know the endless hours you've put in on-site while many of us were able to work from the comfort and safety of our homes
But we also know that in the pandemic, a lot of people who never dreamed that they could do their jobs from anywhere but their office discovered actually they can! And now, in survey after survey, employees have made it clear: they don't want to go back to the office full-time.
A hybrid approach to returning to the office is the clear preference for employees but what version of it is the right approach and specifically what does it mean for the funds industry?
Here are some of the main models that companies are opting for:
Henry Ward, CEO of Carta, is taking an interesting approach to their return to the office and his post outlining his thought process is well worth a read.
Let’s look at what Carta are doing and examine some of Henry’s thinking. If you don’t know Carta, it provides VC Fund Admin services and is also widely known for cap table and employee equity management. It has just over 1,000 employees across 10 offices.
Carta is taking a mixed approach with both in-person mandated days, mandated remote days as well as some employees fully remote. Starting September 7, 2021 Carta went with the following for US employees:
I like the way Henry approaches the question of ‘what is the best approach?’ to returning to the office with an honest assessment of not knowing the right answer! As we’ve discovered, predicting the future is hard.
Carta is adopting a workable starting point but acknowledging that it will have to adapt and change the approach as it learns how to work in this new world. That’s a lesson all leaders in the funds industry can take when communicating the return to office plan with their teams. Just because you are making the final decision doesn’t mean you should have all the right answers, but it does mean you must be asking the right questions.
Henry mentions in his post some of the negatives of giving everyone the option to choose what days to come to the office and which to work from home. Working in the funds industry can be meeting-heavy and there is no harder meeting format than where some of the team are in a conference room in person and others are dialling in. This mixed format is probably the least effective and often meetings are more productive if everyone is remote and dialling in.
Mandating which days will be remote and which will be in-person means this is no longer an issue. You also know that when you do commute to the office you get to meet with everyone rather than people turning up on different days and perhaps not overlapping in person for weeks on end.
This reminds me a bit of the trade-off between giving employees unlimited holidays versus generous but capped awards. Most people prefer to know where the boundaries are and appreciate the structure. Studies have found that in companies with unlimited holidays, employees take less time off.
Giving full flexibility to employees on the days they choose to come to the office can throw up further issues. Some will come in every day because they fear they won't be seen to be working. While resentment can build against team members that work from home more than others.
A few of the team at Fund Recs are currently back in the office while others are continuing fully remote for now. Our plan is to continue to talk to the team about the best approach in the coming months while also keeping an eye on how things are working out for companies like Carta. With our team at just over 30 people, we have a bit more flexibility with our decision but it’s safe to say that what we go with initially will be a starting point that evolves over time.
There seems to be a wide range of approaches companies are taking. Here are some examples of the extremes at either end.
Large Wall Street banks such as Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan said at the start of the summer that they expect staff to return to fully onsite work.
Meanwhile, PwC said it will allow all of its 40 000 US client services employees to work virtually and live anywhere they want in perpetuity. PwC employees who choose to work virtually would have to come into the office a maximum of three days per month for in-person appointments.
Depending on the type of company and the work carried out, different companies are likely to reap different benefits and encounter slightly different challenges when choosing hybrid, fully remote or fully onsite. Here are some of the benefits and challenges companies can expect.
Potential benefits of the hybrid work approach:
Potential challenges of the hybrid work approach:
The pandemic has accelerated us all into the future and that future is evolving faster than ever before.
Defining the return to office work patterns presents a series of opportunities and challenges to companies in the funds industry.
As you can see from the different approaches some companies are taking there doesn’t seem to be a consensus on the best approach. In fact, there may end up being multiple different approaches depending on the company, type of work and culture. When you think about it, it was a bit crazy that pre-pandemic most companies had accepted fully on-site without giving it too much thought.
The world faces huge challenges across climate, politics, and health. The funds industry is well positioned to resource the solutions to our biggest problems, proving its resilience during the pandemic. Hybrid work presents a new set of opportunities and challenges with the funds industry well-positioned to adapt and continue to prosper.
To find out more about how Fund Recs is helping to change the shape of work through software innovation, request a demo today.
Fund Recs develops cloud reconciliation software for the funds industry. We'll be sharing our experiences and thoughts on our blog as we build our company.