Client Affairs

The Ifs, Buts And Whens Of Office Return: Asset Manager Survey

Jackie Bennion, Deputy Editor, 27 July 2021

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Is the flow back to offices a flood or a trickle? A recent poll of 44 asset management firms marks a mid-term assessment.

A new survey by the Independent Investment Management Initiative (IIMI) reveals that 70 per cent of its members have already returned to the office in some capacity, with a further 18 per cent intending to do so over the summer, and 10 per cent by the autumn.

The asset management think tank, formerly known as New City Initiative, found that its largely boutique asset manager membership were overwhelmingly (77 per cent) in favour of adopting a flexible approach.

Just over half (51 per cent) plan to let employees work from home for 1 to 2 days a week; roughly a third (32 per cent) plan to allow remote working for 2 to 3 days a week; and 16 per cent are open to staff working from home for 4 to 5 days a week.

The knock-on effects of these scenarios on office capacity, real estate prices, and the ebb and flow of City centre life, will continue as businesses adjust.

Among firms reticent about introducing flexible working, 28 per cent said productivity concerns were a primary reason. A similar proportion warned that too much remote flexibility could adversely impact training.

As returning workers are welcomed back, albeit not at pre-pandemic levels, a majority of IIMI members said they are reluctant to impose vaccination requirements.

Just over half (56 per cent) were against the idea of staff being tested and/or vaccinated; 20 per cent said staff must be regularly tested but not necessarily vaccinated; just 7 per cent would insist on employees being regularly tested and fully vaccinated.

In a signal that businesses, like the general public, are being asked to use their own discretion as freedoms return, 16 per cent said they are currently unsure of what their return policy should be, and many are fretting about the potential for workplace discrimination.

Among firms not requiring staff to be fully vaccinated or tested regularly, roughly a quarter said indirect discrimination was a risk and that such a policy would pose serious ethical concerns.

IIMI’s chairman Nick Mottram suggests the pollng makes clear that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. “The process of bringing employees back into the office will not be straightforward, and a number of ethical issues remain unanswered, such as treating vaccinated and unvaccinated staff differently. We will be speaking with our member firms about their post-COVID-19 working practices in the next few weeks, and look forward to communicating our findings.”

The group has a member base of 44 independent asset management firms in the UK and internationally, managing approximately £500 billion and employing several thousand people. It launched a Singapore service in 2019.

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