Remote working in Financial Services used to be uncommon. Trading activity was traditionally resigned to the trading floor where it could be supervised in person. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the status-quo has been turned upside down as companies’ business continuity planning (BCP) and disaster recovery (DR) sites have fallen short of lockdown requirements, urging new ways of working.
Whatever happens in the coming months, it will shape the world of work as we know it and perhaps not as we might expect.
COVID-19 is the biggest test to Financial Services since the financial crisis.
Companies around the world have seen their priorities shift considerably as we see the adapt to working life during COVID-19.
Disaster recovery sites have been rendered useless under lockdown conditions and self-distancing measures, something never contemplated in former continuity planning.
This has brought about the rapid adoption of remote working and flexible working while working parents juggle home schooling and full-time jobs.
However, the sudden surge in home-working setups has become a compliance officer’s worst nightmare personified and they are being required supervise a business that has shifted behind closed doors overnight. Suddenly, compliance teams and senior managers are under huge pressure to adapt to the ‘new normal’; all the while protecting market integrity and weathering the impending regulatory scrutiny to follow.
Between stark warnings from the Regulator and the early stress test for SM&CR’s Conduct Rues, It’s the Senior Managers who will be expected to whether this storm. Companies will be forced to rethink their compliance and monitoring processes to help them implement better supervision and controls under remote working conditions.
How have firms and employees adapted to working remotely
At this point we have been put in a position where most of the Financial Services have been mandated to work from home.
Following expanded coronavirus testing by the UK government recently, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has highlighted some roles that may be considered as providing essential services; they include individuals captures by the Senior Managers Regime and Risk Management, compliance and audit functions, among others.
While the Regulator may class some individuals as key workers, this doesn’t mean the individuals themselves will want to make the commute to work or to a remote bcp site. For instance, in Canada we have seen traders pushing back and refusing to come into work, asking for better resources to allow them to work from home. While a few firms have risen to the challenge of setting traders up at home, this is sadly not the case for all.
Companies must put the safety of their employees at the forefront now more than ever. Where before BC planning included contingencies for terrorist attacks or flooding and global pandemics were a less than likely eventuality, we are seeing firms having to completely re-think their approach and consider remote working as a business as usual activity.
Remote working now essential part of business continuity planning
There is no real excuse anymore not to offer remote working as standard. In today’s working environment, where the next crisis (who knows in what form) could be right around the corner, flexibility is the close cousin, and ally, of business continuity.
Firms must be in a position to be able to allow people to continue working while at home, or anyway for that matter. Where possible, this is what firms should be aiming for.
Increasing flexibility isn’t only a logical step for safeguarding the smooth-running of your business, it’s also your responsibility as an employer. Flexible working meets the needs of many individuals who are having to juggle family life around a full-time working schedule. Fitting in school drop offs and attending the daily 9am meetings or trading hours are huge concerns for working parents so in order to fully support a diverse workforce, these considerations should be taken into account.
Besides, as a result, we might even see an uptick in productivity over time, like this Chinese travel agency, or an improvement in good conduct (and less bad language on the squawk box).
How we see the future of trading venues and capital markets as a whole
We have not seen the end of the trading floor. Quick communication and the ability to execute trades in an open environment is important and will remain so. Also, the personal benefits from face-to-face teamwork or working with friendly competition beside you will always be necessary, after all we humans are social beings and crave personal interaction.
That said, the pandemic may put in a few changes in place:
- We will see more remote working facilities – business will have to re-think their resources in a big way.
- Business travel and expenses will most likely be reduced – after we have all seen the ease of fitting in long-distance video calls around our schedules.
- We might see more people move out of the city – without the need for high-cost living if individuals are able to work from home.
- We will have a need for better transparency – where normally oversight could be done on the floor, other ways to supervise effectively will need to be considered for remote workers.