Goldman Sachs boss David Solomon slams WFH as an ‘aberration’

Goldman Sachs chief executive David Solomon has sent the clearest message yet to homebound traders and investment bankers — don’t get used to it.

Solomon said that working from home is an “aberration” and not the “new normal”, as Goldman has been forced to operate with just 10% of its 34,000 or so employees in the office for the best part of a year because of Covid-19.

Goldman’s chief executive has long been a sceptic of the lasting benefits of remote working, even as rivals at European lenders have called for permanent change. He has called for a return to the office, saying that its employees benefit from working together in a collaborative culture.

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However, his latest comments are the strongest yet that Goldman will not follow other banks in offering permanent flexible working arrangements.

“I do think for a business like ours, which is an innovative, collaborative apprenticeship culture, this is not ideal for us,” he told the Credit Suisse Financial Services conference on 24 February. “And it’s not a new normal. It’s an aberration that we’re going to correct as soon as possible.”

The issue was particularly acute for the 3,000 or so new recruits at Goldman, who have barely seen the office since starting in September. “I am very focused on the fact that I don’t want another class of young people arriving at Goldman Sachs in the summer remotely,” he said.

READ HSBC plans 40% office space cut as Covid shifts bank to flexible working

Solomon’s comments echo Barclays chief executive Jes Staley, who said on 18 February that working from home was “getting old” and that the bank would look to get its employees back to the office as soon as possible.

However, UK lender HSBC is cutting its head office footprint by up to 40% as the bank reshapes its workforce and expects a larger proportion of employees to work remotely. Noel Quinn, its chief executive, said on 23 February that there would be “very different style of work post Covid” and the bank is reducing real estate in preparation for a new hybrid model of working.

In October, JPMorgan chief executive Jamie Dimon said the downsides of working from home were being felt “more and more” and that bankers were missing the “spontaneous creativity” of being in the office.

“There are a lot of people who have been hired into our companies who have never been into our company,” he said. “How do you build a culture and character? How are you going to learn properly?,” he said, referring largely to new junior employees.

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