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4 banking giants embracing hybrid working

HSBC follows in the footsteps of Citigroup, Lloyds, and Standard Chartered in embracing hybrid working for the long haul.

Allie Nawrat

london's banking district skyline
Credit: Matthew Foulds via Unsplash.

The banking sector is split between those favoring a return to full-time office working and others embracing the new normal: hybrid working. Unleash Your Curiosity

  • While many investment banks are leading the return to the office full time charge, some are instead embracing changes to their workplaces and long-term, post-pandemic hybrid working.
  • HSBC is the latest bank to get on board with a hybrid future of working.

While some banks – Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, and Barclays to name a few – have been very keen to get their employees back into the office as soon as possible, HSBC has taken a very different approach.

Noel Quinn, HSBC’s CEO, has turned the entire executive 42nd floor of its London HQ, which previously contained the private offices of top management, into client meeting rooms and collaborative spaces.

Now those managers, including Quinn himself, will have to hot desk in an open-plan office alongside employees working at the HQ.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Quinn said: “We don’t have a designated desk. You turn up and grab one in the morning.

“I won’t be in the office five days a week. I think it’s unnecessary . . . It’s the new reality of life.”

It’s clear that Quinn and HSBC are fully on board with hybrid working for its 40,000 UK employees; it remains unclear if this hybrid working approach will be rolled out globally.

HSBC’s 40,000 employees in the UK are set to benefit from hybrid working but it remains unclear whether this new approach will be rolled out globally.

This move by HSBC is in line with some of its other competitors; let’s look at some at other big banks also embracing hybrid as the future of work.

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Number of employees: 68,000

On the back of a survey where 77% of its employees said they wanted to work from home three or more days a week, Lloyds Banking Group has decided to embrace hybrid working.

The bank announced in February that it would reduce its office space by 20% over the next two years – noting that the remaining office space would be prioritized for teamwork, rather than solo-working, according to reporting by the Guardian.  

According to its latest annual report, Lloyds will carry out behavioral experiments to identify the most practical way forward to support its staff in agile working.

In addition, Lloyd’s CEO António Horta-Osório noted that hybrid working would help attract a broader pool of talent, particularly younger workers.

[Read more: Remote working and productivity: why employee listening is key]


Number of employees: 204,000

Having made headlines about Zoom-free Fridays and a reset day to tackle staff burnout, Citigroup’s CEO Jane Fraser said in a blog post that “one size does not fit all” and that returning to the office requires a flexible response.

Although Fraser believes there are multiple material advantages to having employees together in the office – including belonging, collaboration, learning, and performance – she wrote:

“We also recognize that our people have benefitted from aspects of working remotely, and we intend to create additional flexibility going forward.”

Therefore, there will be three models of working at Citi: hybrid, resident, and remote. The vast majority of roles globally will be hybrid: where people will work from the office at least three days a week and then from home the rest of the week. However, it’s important to note that most jobs at Citi cannot be carried out remotely.

She continued to discuss what the future of the workplace will look like for Citi, particularly for those employees who’ve just started out: “How do we ensure that the 35,000 colleagues who have joined us since the start of the pandemic feel they belong to the team and to the firm and that we invest the time and provide the experiences for them to feel like Citibankers?”

Fraser concluded that Citi would be able to find appropriate responses to these challenges; the pandemic “has opened doors to new ways of working and shown that we are able to adapt to and even flourish amid adversity”.

Standard Chartered

Number of employees: 85,000

In November 2020, Standard Chartered bank committed to hybrid working for its staff. This came off the back of an October survey of employees in its nine primary markets – the UK, the US, Hong Kong, Singapore, the UAE, Poland, Malaysia, China and India – and a review of the flexibility of job roles, which found that 80% were suitable for flexible working options.

So in the beginning of 2021, staff in those nine markets were allowed to apply for a flexible working arrangement. Standard Chartered plans to expand this option to additional markets later this year.

Employees will not only have the option to select the number of hours or days they want to work in the office or from home, but Standard Chartered has teamed up with flexible workspace provider IWG to provide a third option to its staff.

As a result, Standard Chartered employees will be able to work from any of IWG’s 3,500 global locations.

This – and redesigned core office space — aims to allow staff to work collaboratively and creatively together. Standard Chartered will be monitoring how its employees use the IWG workspaces and the impact on productivity.

Standard Chartered head of human resources Tanuj Kapilashrami said: “A lot of critics of flexible working have said that productivity is going to come down, and my challenge to them is, productivity has been used interchangeably with presenteeism (working while sick).

“We believe that by leveraging technology well we can enhance productivity.”

Similarly to Lloyds, Kapilashrami and Standard Chartered see this move as a way to appeal to a “wider and more diverse potential future workforce”. In addition, the bank views hybrid working as having a positive impact on the environment and employee wellbeing.  

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